New Years in Ecuador: Yellow Panties and Effigies Traditions

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New Years in Ecuador is one of the most interesting times of the year.

One of the things I love about Ecuador is that every holiday has a set of traditions that are so different from my own. New Year’s Eve is no exception.

A slight twist on things, Ecuadorians focus more on the passing of the old year in preparation for the new year.

With the warm December weather it means there are a lot of people in the streets to celebrate with a number of traditions and superstitions.

New Years in Ecuador: The Traditions

AƱo Viejo

The central figure of New Years in Ecuador, Ecuadorians create an effigy to burn New Year’s Eve.

The dummy traps all the bad things from that year and burning ensures that those things do not happen again.

I have thought about modeling one after Whatsherface. However it turns out that it does bring good luck to the subject as the effigies make fun of them.

This New Years tradition is not malicious enough to literally mean that you want them to burn in hell.

Cuy in Ecuador

In many neighbourhoods it’s an enormous competition and the models are often important events from the previous year, often politics.

So last year effies focused on the new constitution bringing too much power to the president.

This year it’s likely that I’ll see puppets representing the recent attempted coup in Quito or the new educational system.

There's no better time than New Years in Ecuador - here's a quick guide to the celebrations and traditions you don't want to miss.

The effigies are filled with sawdust or newspaper and some firecrackers, beaten and burned before midnight.

It’s important that they are burned completely or else the bad situations that were tormenting you and your family that year will return in the New Year to bother you again.

In Cuenca and Quito the AƱo Viejo is about making fun to amuse people.

In Guayaquil it becomes even bigger, with people creating Monigotes which are often 9 meters in size and besting each other, so it’s not uncommon to see Gene Simmons or other movie stars or cartoons.

Jumping over the Fire 12 times

Many Ecuadorians jump over the fire once for every month to bring good luck.

However, the fire gets pretty big so you have to be brave, and fit as it takes a lot of energy to make it completely over all 12 times.

The effigies are stuffed with fireworks and lit as soon as it becomes dark. The night is saturated with sounds of laughter, firecrackers, music and car alarms going off.

Many Ecuadorians jump over the fire once for every month to bring good luck. The fire gets pretty big so doing all 12 is brave.

In this video a child and I go first because we have the shortest legs.

I also learned that in Iran there is a Festival of fire called Chaharshanbe Suri where you jump over the fire.

It’s celebrated on the last Wednesday before Nowruz also called the Festival of Fire, is an Iranian festival celebrated on the eve of the last Wednesday before Persian New Year called Nowruz. 

Check out: 23 Persian New Year Food to Eat

12 Grapes

From the Spanish heritage, this tradition during New Years in Ecuador is also in other Latin American countries.

It’s also a holiday Filipino food tradition.

Ecuadorians eat a grape for every wish per month (i.e. January lose weight, February find love etc).

Ecuador Fruits

Coloured Panties

Women wear coloured underwear on New Year’s Eve to bring them luck for the year.

Red is supposed to bring love, yellow brings wealth. I chose wealthy, love can wait!

Loja Ecuador

Gifts to the Fire

Locals throw coins into the fire to bring them financial luck for the year and rice into the fire to make sure they will have an abundance of food on the table.

Widow of the Old Year

Neighbourhood children get together and select one of  the boys of the group to dress up as the widow. They then set barriers for cars to stop and ask for coins for the “oldie.”

The widow weeps that their loved one passed and they have no money.

If the car does not give up change to their neighbours kid, the children do not release the rope barrier although this rarely happens as the kids are happy even with only a few cents.

It’s a funny tradition and the kids usually walk away with a chunk of change.

Some adults do this but it gets a bit creepy that point and the kids generally make more money.

So for New Year’s I’ve decided to choose yellow underwear for money over love but I still haven’t decided what my dummy will be or any of the 12 wishes. Any suggestions?

Join the Conversation

  1. Ayngelina Author says:

    Yeah but wouldn’t you like to see a puppet of someone you hate burn?

    @Dave and Deb
    I am contemplating the jumping if it is a small fire. Afterall I’m only 5 feet tall and have very short legs for my size!

    1. Julie Babin says:

      (you say: “Some adults do this but it gets a bit creepy that point and the kids generally make more money.”)
      I’m not surprised some adults try to make money out of it! They never miss an opportunity…

  2. What amazingly rich traditions. Glad you’ll have an opportunity to experience them. Sounds like you’re going to have a blast.

  3. What a great post! I can totally relate to #3. Although the Philippine tradition is more for having 12 different kinds of round fruits for the new year. (It’s lot, I know) I’ve always thought that these symbolized prosperity and more money coming in for the new year.

  4. Lindsay aka @_thetraveller_ says:

    These are cool… although the stuffed peoples kinda creep me out.

  5. Dave and Deb says:

    Ecuador sounds like it has the best New Year’s Eve ever! Are you going to join in on the jumping over fire festivities?

  6. Lindsay aka @_thetraveller_ says:

    Haha, Damn straight!

  7. Is one permitted to wear panties that are both red and yellow? Or is it too greedy to ask for both money and love? šŸ™‚

  8. Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World says:

    That’s really fascinating. I’m sorta glad we don’t have the tradition of fire jumping here. Like you I’m only 5ft tall and hella clumsy too…

  9. I need to get a pair of yellow panties! Right now. What a brilliant post, fun to learn about other New Year traditions.

  10. 12 wishes, colored panties, burning effigies. This is so much better than making one resolution and having a champagne toast.

  11. Yay yellow panties! What fun traditions to enjoy, I hope you have a fantastic NYE!

  12. Michael Hodson says:

    I hope you are practicing your jumping this week. Stretching. Doing some running…

  13. Is it possible to wear red & yellow striped underwear and still reap the benefits of both?

  14. Yellow panties, eh? I’ll have to remember that.

    I had no idea Ecuador had so many unique New Year’s traditions! Very cool though.

  15. What an interesting and informative post. Is this all unique to Ecuador, I wonder – or are there similar traditions in all the other Andean countries as well?

    Best of luck with the fire jumping.

  16. I may try the grape thing…and it’s way better than falling into a big fire…have fun!
    Gotta run and get some yellow panties šŸ™‚

  17. It sounds like it’ll be a great New Year. We passed some kids yesterday in Medellin, Colombia who had a dummy that they tried to get us to give them money for. I wonder if it’s part of the same tradition.

  18. Wow, I never new there were so many traditions for celebrating the new year. Around my place we put a potato, a coin, and a piece of coal in a bag and bury it in the yard hoping it brings food, money, and warmth into the new year. Thank you for sharing these new-to-me traditions!

  19. what do men wear for love and wealth? and what happens if you go commando?

  20. @Jamie

    Alas men have to earn both the hard way.

    And you can go commando, you could find money or love that way, but only for the night!

  21. Those are some pretty cool traditions! Have fun and Happy New Year!

  22. You mean the panties your mother laid out for you?

  23. Lorna - the roamantics says:

    okay, since yellow cloth=wealth, does that mean you have to wear big ‘ol granny panties to get your wealth on?! does a g-string= only moderately wealthy while bloomers= stinkin’ rich? i know i can count on you to dare to ask these questions if you haven’t already! šŸ˜‰ great cultural lessons here bundled in a fun, well-written package as usual. happy new year!

  24. Justin Hamlin says:

    Rock 2 pair, one yellow and one red. Just to cover your bases!

    Best of luck in 2011!

  25. ciki/agentcikay says:

    ROFLMAO.. i don’t hv yellow underwear, but red i can do! Oh, traditions like these are awesome especially the burn in hell bit! Bad luck.. BE GONE! v interesting post.

  26. If you don’t jump high enough your yellow panties will be become red…just do your jumping before you do your drinking!

  27. Interesting New Year’s. Of course in the US people just get drunk. How did you find out about the yellow panties thing? Do they publicize it, telling everyone, go out and get your yellow panties now if you haven’t already? šŸ™‚

  28. I’ve been intuitively wearing yellow and red undies married life. My wife must have read this some years ago!
    Have a great 2011!

  29. LeslieTravel says:

    I heard about these traditions from an Ecuadorian-American friend and they sound so interesting. I’d love to see the celebrations firsthand. Thanks for the pics and description– and happy new year!

  30. Wow, talk abtout memories! I lived in Ecuador when I was really young (like 4-9) and Ano Viejo festivities were some of the greatest memories I have! I distinctly remember effegies of this really unpopular President they had at the timed named Sixto Duran Balle. There was even one with a growing nose to depict just how unpopular he was!

    Great list! I didn’t know about the panties one! What fun!

  31. Anne Kostalas says:

    Your Message We spent New Year in Spain and our Spanish family had red panties ready for us. I have one question.

  32. Globetrottergirls says:

    It seems like you chose the right place to celebrate the New Year! Such interesting traditions, especially jumping over the fire – I hope we get to see some pictures of that šŸ˜‰ Have a happy New Year!

  33. Jozef Maxted says:

    Burning effigies is really similar to what we do in the Uk on bonfire night. A really insightful post though, its really interesting how traditions differ from country to country. Ecuador’s seem pretty fun!

  34. Michael Figueiredo says:

    These are great traditions! When I was in Madrid a couple years back we ate 12 grapes at midnight. Of course, they were not seedless and I gagged. Happy New Year to you!

  35. Todd | Todd's Wanderings says:

    Wow, those are some amazing traditions. I don’t have yellow panties either šŸ˜‰ But it makes me want to jump on a plane and join you in the fire. Have a great time!

  36. So freakin cool dude! I loved hearing about their traditions, and I think yellow panties are a particularly fabulous idea!

  37. Michael Figueiredo says:

    I was inspired by your article to ask my friends and family about their favorite New Year’s traditions too! It is amazing how people around the world like to celebrate!

  38. This is very interesting… I had heard of the panties & grape thing cus we do that in Mexico too, but I had never heard of the rest.

    What does pink bring cus I do have a pair of pink ones i have never used jaja~

  39. I love this post

  40. WanderingTrader says:

    This post reminds me of my family gatherings every year, when we the latin’s moved into the “white neighborhoods” they always thought we were crazy for all the silly things we did during the holidays. lol love it!

  41. Hey! We had the 12 grapes in Mexico, my mom counted them to make sure there were 12! But like Michael above, they had seeds, no gagging though! ha

  42. I love these traditions. So much more meaning than over here where it’s a case of getting tarted up to go out, get absolutely wasted, sing Happy New Year, get kissed at midnight, fall asleep and wake up with a hangover. šŸ˜›

  43. WOW! I’m so glad you enjoyed our countries’ crazy anticts. šŸ™‚ I love going back to Ecuador for the holidays it is always a blast. šŸ™‚ Thanks for posting.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It was the best New Year’s I have ever had.

  44. Mike Stewart says:

    The traditions that we usually practiced makes our culture more stable than ever. New Year is one of the best occasions that people can celebrate.

  45. Oh God, I’m from Ecuador, I was surfing on internet looking for some pictures of New year’s eve arround the world and I found this blog, makes me feel proud that our traditions can break distance barriers.

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