Now that I have celebrated New Years in both Ecuador and Chile, I thought it might be interesting to give you some idea of the New Years traditions celebrated in each country.
RUNNING AROUND WITH A SUITCASE
Ecuadorians and Chilean share the custom of people running the block around their homes lugging an empty suitcase at a few minutes before midnight. People who perform this yearly New Years tradition routine are all hoping to travel in the year to come.
Last year, when I was living in Ecuador, I wrote a blog titled, New Years In Ecuador: Burn Up Your Troubles. (To read that blog go here: http://wp.me/p47vLx-8N) I explained the Ecuadorian Monigote tradition of creating papermache figures of all sizes, called Monigotes.
Ecuadorians fill these Monigotes with pieces of paper on which they have written down all the things from their life in the past year that they wish to leave behind. Monigote’s can be a family affair, with every member of the family contributing their papers to a single Monigote or each member of the family can have their very own Monigote figure.
Then at midnight, everyone and their family set fire to their collective or personal Monigote, thus burning up all the troubles and starting the new year truly with a clean slate.
Chileans I spoke to this past New Years had never heard of anything like the Ecuadorian Monoigote Tradition. When I explained it to the Chileans I know, in general they found Monigotes rather a “quaint” custom and preferred their parties and champaign and pineapple sherbet tradition.
RED AND YELLOW UNDERWEAR
However Chileans did have a few interesting traditions in common with the Ecuadorians, such as wearing different color underwear to bring an abundance of a certain quality into your life, though the colors linked with the desired objectives differed.
Ecuadorians wear red underwear for love and yellow underwear for money, while Chileans wear yellow underwear to attract both love and money abundance in the new year to come.
Grape sales boost during New Year’s Eve in Chile as it is considered lucky to eat 12 per person — apparently increasing the chances of affluence during the year. We went to the grocery store early in the morning on the day before New Years Eve in Chile to buy some grapes and they were already totally sold out.
NEW YEARS SONGS
While the English-speaking world sing a few verses “Auld Lang Syne” come midnight, I don’t remember any special song sung by Ecuadorians. However, Chileans sing “Un Año Más” on the hour, and loudly. We were up 25 floors and you could hear them singing both above and below us in our condo and also in the streets below.
Chlieans drink a variety of drinks thorughout the evening of New Years Eve, such as cola de mono (coffee, cinnamon, milk and aguardiente) and poncha la romana (champagne with piña colada ice cream). Both of these are guaranteed to give you a completely filthy hangovers. (We decided to stick with white wine.)
When we lived in Ecuador, we celebrated New Years at the beach each year. When deciding where to spend New Year’s Eve in Chile, Valparaíso is usually the first place that springs to mind for most people in Chile. However, I did some research and, though we watched the fireworks from above Vina del Mar and Valparaiso, there are many other places worth considering that offer something different if you plan to come to Chile on New Years Eve at the end of this year 2016. Fair warning: get your reservations made NOW as there are very few places available the closer it gets to New Years.
Torre Entel fireworks
I am not sure what the fireworks are like in Quito, Ecuador as I never spent a New Years Eve there. However, Santiago Chile’s Torre Entel — the 418-foot-tall Television and communications tower — lights up as the yearly firework erupts from the structure’s peak. Due to its tremendous height by Chilean standards, it’s hard not to notice the fireworks display spouting high into the night sky, wherever you may be in the city. The show kicks off at midnight and it’s advised to find a decent vantage point early as people flock from far and wide to guarantee the best views.
Like Ecuadorians, more often than not Chileans get together at a friend or family’s house and fire up the coals for an asado — creating a huge feast to welcome in the new year. In both countries, all sorts of meats get the flame-grilled treatment, especially choripan.
Ecuadorians most often drink a toast with beer or whatever alcohol is on hand. In Chile, people traditionally celebrate the actual striking of midnight with their families, with a toast of champagne with pineapple ice cream.
In Ecuador, people stay where they are for a fiesta and it can last well into the next morning. After dining and the New Years fireworks are over, people in Chile tend to go out in search of a dancing joint or move on to another different location for another house party….or two. Chileans do love to party.
In Chile, for those looking for something a little more lively, the yearly bash within Castillo Hidalgo is sure to entertain. There are three rooms blasting out various types of music including electro, indie and 90s disco. It may not be the cheapest option at $30,000 pesos a ticket — $45,000 pesos for VIP — but you should get a lot of bang for your buck.
This past New Years, DJ Full, Roland Murga and VJ Juan entertained the crowds. Located atop of Santa Lucía the castle was built in 1816. Due to its elevation the site also boasts brilliant views of the Torre Entel fireworks. Check out the website for further details.
We had a very different experience of “New Years At The Beach” this year. In Ecuador, local folks pop some fireworks and it’s over in a few minutes.
This year we were in Vina del Mar, Chile and this is one of the largest fireworks displays in South America. The place was jammed. Thousands of Chileans gravitate towards Valparaíso and neighboring Viña del Mar for New Year’s Eve. With so many great vantage points in the city people gather on the hills, kicking off impromptu parties. The power is cut in many part of the city so that the spectacle can be better appreciated.
However, the fireworks only make up a small part of the evening, most people travel to Valparaiso to party hard.
A stage is set up in Plaza Sotomayor where live bands play. The streets are choked with confetti and spilled champagne. People are awake all night long partying.
Escape to the country
Ecuador has many beautiful locations to ring in the new year besides the beach. This is also true of Chile.
Spending New Year’s Eve surrounded by mountains, lakes and incredible landscapes, all the while escaping the noise and partying of Santiago is a great alternative.
The Los Lagos Region, south of the Río Bío Bío and more or less reaching Puerto Montt, is a region packed tight with forests, snow capped volcanoes, hundreds of lakes and lagoons and hot springs.
Parque Nacional Vicente Pérez Rosales not far from Puerto Varas is highly recommended — it is the perfect destination to go hiking and camping under the stars with friends. Just be prepared for a long bus or car journey to reach the region.
OUR EXPERIENCE IN VINA DEL MAR VALPARAISO 2016
You might think that for New Year’s Eve, the place to be in Chile would be Santiago. While there are (not insubstantial) fireworks (fuegos artificiales ) in Santiago, the biggest New Years Eve party people say takes place in Valparaiso, out on the coast, just seventy miles away.
Even if you watch the fireworks from up above and away from the crowds like we did from our condo, Valparaíso’s fireworks display on New Year’s Eve is truly stunning.
Valparaíso is a protected UNESCO site and is often called “the Pearl of the Pacific.” It’s a port city, though no longer the most important port of the country (San Antonio now has that distinction). Still, commerce comes through here, as do some 50 cruise ships, often either on their way from or to Cape Horn and Antarctica. Valparaíso is famous for its picturesque colorful houses on steep hillsides, and the historic ascensores and funiculares (elevators and funiculars) that ferry people up them.
The fireworks celebration is actually the culmination of three days of celebration in the port city, which though expansive, is not that populous, as there are few large buildings in the city. There are great views from every hilltop, along the water front, from a selection of piers, and you can even buy a ticket for one of a couple of public boats that float alongside the exploding fireworks.
In a country of just 17 million people, as many as a million people flock to Valparaíso for the New Year’s celebration, which is the largest in Latin America.
As I mentioned above, if you’re going to go, book as early as possible, and get to the city early as well. Revelers find moving between Valparaíso and neighboring Viña del Mar on New Year’s Eve tricky, at best.
No matter where you celebrate New Year’s Eve in either Ecuador or Chile, enjoy the celebration!
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