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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Flam-tastic New Years - Hola 2014!

Most of you know that we've never been huge new years celebrators.  It didn't make any sense to shell out $200 a plate for a mediocre meal, bad DJ music and greeting the new year with 200 of our closest strangers.  We were lucky if we even stayed up until midnight.  Hey it was the new year somewhere in the world!

But this year was different.  We'd come a long way to be in a different culture and we weren't going to miss it.  The new year here is celebrate with the whole family. (As is most everything in Ecuador.)  We noticed odd things starting to appear on the streets: stuffed dummies of all shapes and sizes, papier mache face masks both realistic and not.  Then came the stands full of fire works and completed effigies started showing up in store doorways and on car bumpers.

Pick a body, pick a face!

Cartoon characters seemed very popular

That Barney mask was REALLY tempting.

Very tiny selection of available fireworks and sparklers
Okay, so you might be asking yourself "What is all of this?" (I know we would have wondered if we hadn't done some research.)  This is how the new year goes down here:  you build yourself an effigy. Some people make it look like themselves, some like to use cartoon characters, some like to use famous people, like politicians or athletes. (Sorry aren't that popular here.) Why? Well, you load down your effigy with notes about your wishes for the future or the things that you want to move on from that happened in the past and at midnight you burn your creation to get rid of the bad from last year and start fresh in the new one.  It isn't effigy burning as we know it.  This is a well intentioned practice to wish good things for people. The local neighbourhoods ("barrios") compete for the best display and they don't go small.

To give you an idea of scale

Crazy detail

There was a troupe of the guys wandering around all night, not sure why.

"Seeing the identity of my people being extinguished"
(That qualifies as getting rid of something bad!)

"The Train" Valencia, the fastest (soccer/futbol) player on the a gazelle...the best center in the world leaving his rival wrathful"
The only way to get rid of an evil doll is to burn it to ashes...we all know this!

Adios, Diego!

Team Ecuador - Wishing Success in 2014 World Cup

Hoping for Monetary Success in 2014

More wishes for the soccer team
The last photo is just down the street from us, right at the end of the block.  Neither of us could believe that they were going to burn these huge installations.  We went home and had a nice dinner.

(With some sparkling wine of course.  By 8pm we were ready to head out and see what was going on.  Some people started the party early by burning their effigies right in the middle of the street.  Cars wended their way around the odd fire here and there and traffic was a nightmare, with all sorts of streets randomly blocked off for the barrio presentations.  Pure craziness.  The streets were very busy with families roaming around and the ubiquitous street vendors cashing in on the extra business. (Many with effigies attached to their carts and wheel barrows.)
There were little spot fires, like this one all over the city, even during daylight hours, but we had to wait until midnight for the real show to start.
Yup, This One is Going to Be Lit Up

A Family Effigy Pyre

Will It Burn?

Douse It With More Incendiary Liquid!


We amused ourselves with similar shows of pyrotechnics as we waited until midnight.  It was amazing to see the little kids up and running around, helping arrange the piles of effigies.
These little ones are making a nest for the bodies!
And having a grand time while doing it.
We realized it was almost midnight and headed back to the huge presentation near our house. And here's how it went down:
Spend all day putting it up, then rip it apart and burn it!

First Flames

Stuff in bottom left, still to be burned!

Big crowd (you can see a fire starting way up the street, too).

Crowd Shot - lots of gringos

Did I mention that they put fireworks in the effigies?  I recommend they stand back!

Looks like a war zone especially with the 2nd fire in the background

Post Firework was LOUD!
Ron went out this morning to see the damage and, except for a few dark stains on the cobbles and the odd bit of ash floating around, it's like nothing ever happened.  Effigy fairies must have been hard at work while the rest of us slept. Hard to believe when stuff like this was going on only hours before!

If you ever (and I mean EVER) get the opportunity to witness this, don't miss it.  It's as much fun as you can have with fire, alcohol and the new year.  Even with that combination there was no violence, looting or mayhem, just a good family experience that includes combustible liquids, matches and a good sense of humour.


  1. Great write up! Burn baby burn! Cool. Happy new year from the Lozers!

  2. That is amazing, you should have made a DHL doll.