With Catholicism as the dominant religion, Christmas in Ecuador is predominantly a religious affair with more and more modernizing and commercializing in the cities in recent years. And since the country is located on the Equator, one cannot expect a white Christmas.
Christmas in Ecuadorian Cities:
In their homes, many Ecuadorians will decorate cypress or artificial trees on Christmas Eve. But many more will make their own nativity scene in the weeks prior to Christmas. The decoration of the baby Jesus in the stable together with Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the kings, and all the others is seen everywhere, and on a large, sometimes life size, scale. There is also a strong element of competition in having the best nativity scene. In Calderón, the town famous for its bread dough figurines, you can buy Christmas ornaments and very intricate nativity pieces made from bread dough.
There are many parades around towns and neighborhoods with the statues or dolls representing baby Jesus as the focus, due in part to the Pase del Niño Viajero tradition started in Cuenca in the 1960's. Many family's have nativity pieces that have been handed down through the generations.
It has become customary for business owners to give gifts to their employees at Christmas – anything from food and candies to an extra month's pay.
Christmas in Ecuadorian Villages:
On Christmas Eve it is traditional to attend a midnight mass. Families, carrying their Christ Child figurine and singing carols will pass a bonfire of eucalyptus branches being burned in front of the church. Entering the church they will add the figures to the nativity scene and have mass. There is also a Christmas morning mass.
Christmas on an Ecuadorian Ranch:
Christmas Day on a ranch dawns with a colorful procession as the Indian employees who live and work in the highlands and mountains dress in their finest and ride their brightly arrayed llamas down to the ranches where their employers live.
They may bring offerings of fruit and produce to lay before the image of baby Jesus in the large manger scene set up in the ranch house. Children also bring their gifts and make pretty speeches to the image of the Holy Infant, asking blessings for their family and their animals.
It is a day of festivities and the owner of the ranch will most likely distribute gifts to his employees and their families. The Christmas meal will probably include roast lamb, baked potatoes and brown sugar bread. When the party breaks up and the families find their way into the mountains at the end of the day, they often carry with them as many leftovers as they were carrying offerings in the morning. (source)
Have you every had they joy of experiencing Christmas in Ecuador? I would love for you to share your experience with us in the comments!
Thank you to Cherith F. for her help with first hand information for this post.
- Equator Monument Coloring Page
- Nativity Coloring Page
- Instructions for making Bread Dough Ornaments
- Watch a 4 min YouTube video of the Paseo del Niño Viajero en Cuenca
Join our mailing list to get a new post about Christmas Around the World each day in October! Or click the link below to see the other posts in the series. ¡Felice Navidad!