Rock & Rose + [travel]

Holidaze in Loja

We're starting to recover from the Holiday blitz that occured here in Loja. We all had a great time hanging out with family and friends.

We actually had two Christmas dinners - one on the 24th and one on the 25th. The custom here in Ecuador is to have a big family dinner and open presents on the 24th. Lucho and I are used to celebrating on the 25th (that is the tradition in my family). So Lucho's sisters made a dinner on the 24th, and we cooked a "traditional" U.S turkey dinner on the 25th. It was pretty easy to find a turkey because lots of people cook turkey here over the holidays. It even had one of those little things that popped out when it was done, so I had no problem cooking it. Lucho found a couple of cans of cranberry sauce at the grocery store and there were plenty of potatoes and veggies for the rest of the side dishes. The only difficulty was finding pumpkin. I ended up using a squash that Lucho bought in the market. The final product was pretty close to pumpkin pie. People were a little leary about trying the pie because the squash is usually used for savory things, like soups, but in the end most people decided that they liked it. Afterthe meal we were all zoned out from too much turkey and starchy foods. It felt just like Christmas to me!

A week later the New Year's celebration was another big shindig. This time the family got together for dinner at my mother-in-law's house. We had turkey (served with a sauce made with strawberries), and lengua (tongue) which was actually very good (I had only had tongue one other time in my life and it felt like I was eating a tongue, but this time it was prepared differently and tasted great). New Year's in Ecuador is kind of like a combination of Halloween, 4th of July and New Year's all in one. Everyone makes "Año Viejos" which are usually life-sized dolls made with clothes stuffed with newspaper with a paper mache head on top. Sometimes they are very elaborate, big sculptures and entire neighborhoods get together to build them. They are meant to represent something good or something bad that happened in the previous year, and they often have political themes. For about a week before you can see people making Año Viejos all over town and many of the stores sell the dolls or the heads.

Early in the evening the "viudas" (widows) start to appear. The viudas are men who dress up like women. They are supposed to represent the widow of the year that has just died. And since they are widows and they don't have any means of support, they go around stopping cars and asking for money. Usually the whole neighborhood gets involved and they set up teams of people to stop the cars - with a rope across the street or sometimes even a big tree branch. The viudas dance around and try to extract change from the passengers. The guys really get into it and it is fun to watch. At this time you better have change in your pocket if you are driving around town.

Cocoa

After the midnight countdown the Año Viejos are set on fire. At the same time everyone sets off fireworks. So everywhere you look there are little bonfires in the street, kids running around with sparklers, and fireworks shooting into the air. It is also the tradition to jump over the bonfire, you are supposed to jump over it at least 3 times for good luck. We had several Año Viejos and we set them on fire in front of Lucho's mom's house. All the kids got to stay up way past their bedtimes. Christina loved the sparklers - it was her first experience with them. She also had a great time jumping over the bonfire with mom and dad. I think that was the highlight of the evening for her. Once the fire died down, we said good-bye to everyone and headed home. The viudas were gone and the air was heavy with smoke from all the fires. There were clusters of people everywhere in various stages of drunkenness. Lucho had to go to Siembra, which was open for an all night party, but I was happy to crawl into bed with Christina and go to sleep.