Happy New Year!

Without a doubt, Ecuador has us beat when it comes to New Year's Eve. The burning of life-size effigies, jumping over fires, and slutty "viudas" (widows) throughout the city are far more colorful than a jam-packed Times Square and the dropping of the ball. A quick stroll around our neighborhood provided a brief look at some of Ecuador's coolest NYE traditions. In the days leading up to NYE, scarecrow-like dolls, often life-size, appear around the city, mainly tied to cars and propped up at the numerous guard stations. The "años viejos" (old years) sometimes depict a famous person, politician, cartoon, or simply represent the creator himself. At midnight, the effigies are set on fire, symbolizing destruction of the bad things from the previous year and the hope that the new year will be better. Ecuadorians also have a tradition of jumping over the fires, again symbolizing a jump into the new year. (Check out this link of our very own ambassador participating in this tradition) But our favorite tradition, which is pretty specific to Ecuador, is the viudas. Young Ecuadorian men dress up as widows of the year that has passed and block traffic until drivers pay them a few coins to pass. The viudas tend to wear short, tight dresses, complete with the necessary "female parts". Friends play reggaeton music while the viuda dances provocatively in an attempt to embarrass the (male) drivers. Some of the viudas make a point of showing off their colored underwear; as the superstition goes, yellow panties worn on NYE bring prosperity in the new year, while red panties bring love.

One of the best parts of these traditions is that they start early in the day, so those of us who don't make it til midnight can still participate in the festivities. Night night!