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Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Old Man... an Ecuadorian New Year's Tradition

Ecuador is a country rich with traditions. My youngest daughter, the most Ecuadorian of the three, considers New Year's her favorite Ecuadorian holiday. What is so different about the way we celebrate New Years here? Let's start with the "Old Man". Each family typically makes an "Old Man". This is done by taking some old pants and a shirt, sowing them together and then stuffing them with old cloth or newspaper. Some put some fireworks inside it as well. Then you make or, more than likely, purchase a face mask to place on the Old Man. You can buy masks on most any corner in the city starting the day after Christmas up through New Years Eve. These are usually of political figures or celebrities. Generally if one's caricature is placed on an Old Man it indicates some degree of ridicule. Often a family makes their Old Man up several days before New Years Eve. They often set him outside for all to see. He might even have a jar for coins and a sign asking folks to contribute to some ridiculous cause. All this is for the fun of it. On the 31st of December, a holiday when very few have to work, the family often goes into the street and builds a type of brush arbor with branches from palm trees. They set the Old Man up there. At midnight the family gathers around the Old Man and sets him and his house on fire. The Old Man represents the ending of one year. There are always lots of fireworks. Families typically wonder around the community to look at the Old Men their neighbors have set up a little before midnight. You can imagine with every family in a city of about 1.5 million people burning a life-size Old Man that the city is covered with a cloud of smoke for hours. Take care driving your car the next day too. The city street will be littered with the charred remains of the Old Men and the brush arbors, wood and nails. So, for the ending of 2010 I've placed a new cache called, The Old Man (GC2KVV4). Please come look for it.
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