Saturday, January 23, 2016

Ano Viejo

New Year’s Eve was a big deal in Ecuador.  
A major way that they celebrated bringing in the New Year was through Ano Viejo’s.  These were paper machete creations that could be bought at a number of roadside stands or made at home out of hay and other materials.  These Ano Viejo’s ranged from depictions of political to historical to Hollywood characters.  
Anaiah, Eliana, and Teo posing with the Ano Viejo that we bought.

The Ano Viejo’s were usually put in a stationary position with a house built around it out of tree limbs or they were attached to the top or front of cars.  

It was customary to burn the Ano Viejo’s at midnight, hopefully removing them from the car before doing so, to symbolically burn away all of the bad from the previous year.  While the Ano Viejo burned, the person burning it was supposed to jump over it 12 times, signifying blessings for the next 12 months.

Another “unique” New Year’s Eve tradition in Ecuador was for the men to dress up like women and collect money while doing so.  One Ecuadorian explained it to me that the men who dressed up like women were supposed to be the widows of the Ano Viejo’s that were burned, and they were collecting money to survive.  No matter what they said it was supposed to be, it ended up being a bunch of drunk guys dressed up as women jumping in front of cars to do a dance and then collect money to get more booze.  
enough said . . .

Our New Year’s Eve celebration turned out a bit different than the norm, even though we tried our best to fit in.  There was no way the kids or us, for that matter, were going to stay up till midnight.  Teo still had a habit of waking up with the rooster’s at 5am.  We burned our Ano Viejo after a couple of smore’s around the campfire no later than 6:30 pm.  Prior to burning it, the girls jumped over it 12 times.  
Look at them jump.

I was looking to secure some extra blessings for this coming year so I jumped over it 12 times while it was burning.  

Rachel added a twist by taking apart the previous year’s calendar and burning each page.  After it was all finished, Eliana and Anaiah continued to look for more things to burn and jump over.  

Adios Ano Viejo.

Here is to another year that was and another year that will be.  

Saturday, January 2, 2016

O Christmas Tree

The past couple of years we have cut down our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving.  This wasn’t a quick selection at some temporary Christmas tree lot.  Rachel had strict requirements of the type of Christmas tree that she would allow to enter our house.  It had to be cut down, full and proportionate, and the bigger the better.  The process of finding a perfect Christmas tree was an all-day affair that involved roaming about sometimes more than one Christmas tree farm and putting garments of clothing on multiple trees to reserve them until she found "the one."

Things were a bit different this year.  After days of looking, we ended up with this one. 
Isn't she a beauty?
In el Valle de los Chillos, the valley outside of Quito where we are living, we found two places that sold Christmas trees.  The first place had five brown Christmas trees with their dead needles falling off.  No thanks.  The second place was a nursery that had a bunch of trees, but not so much Christmas trees.  We bought our skinny minnie, which was the best one out of the ragtag assortment.  The roots were still attached and we kept them that way by putting them in a cleaned out 5 gallon paint bucket so that we could replant it when we were finished.  No decorative tree stand this year. 

Rachel’s parents also got a Christmas tree.  But they were much more resourceful than us in acquiring their round beauty.  
Our tree is on the left and their tree is on the right.  It is hard to tell which one is more amazing.

They dug it up from their yard, and will replant it when they are finished.  I like the sound of that.  If we had a yard at home, I would start that tradition immediately.  Using the Christmas tree and replanting it again and again until it got so big that it wouldn’t fit into the house, and then start over again.  This would save a ton of money and a ton of searching for the perfect tree time. 

Christmas trees are not as popular in Ecuador as they are in the States.  Some people here have artificial trees, a few people have a tree that was cut down, but most people have Bethlehem scenes.  These scenes aren’t just nativity scenes of Jesus in the manger.  They are reconstructions of what the town of Bethlehem would have looked like.  They include merchants, tradesman, houses, livestock, etc., and can become quite elaborate and creative.

Eliana and Anaiah checking out a Bethlehem scene at their cousin's house.

Check out the incense on the left, a common effect used at Bethlehem scenes.  

Christmas is over, Bethlehem scenes have been taken down, and our tree that would given Charlie Brown’s a run for his money is back in the ground, getting ready for another year to be dug up and used again.