How do Ecuadorians celebrate Christmas?
Christmas in Ecuador is highly commercialized in the big cities, with Xmas decorations from October onwards and festive music in the shops. However, in rural areas, you can escape Christmas and have a peaceful holiday without all the hype and shop from the big cities.
Christmas is an important religious festival in this predominantly Catholic country. For example the holy family (pesebre) is an Ecuadorian tradition to be put together with a bunch of small figures, in most of the Catholic homes the nativity mass (novena) is held by the head of the family, others assist to a local church nativity mass the days before Christmas, also the holly family is placed at most principal plazas or places, for example in Quito the holly family is put together and lit every year at the Panecillo and can be seen from almost every place in the city of Quito.
A great part of supermarkets and shopping malls are replaced by sweets, biscuits and all type of alcoholic and no alcoholic beverages, the most popular sold are the candy bags for the children (fundas de caramelos) and the Christmas basket (canasta navideña) the candy bags are sold all over the place even by the roadside small businesses that appear at this time of the year, the Christmas baskets are also very popular because it is a tradition that everyone that has people working for them will give this basket to all their workers.
The roadside small businesses offer a variety of things, like natural Xmas trees, Xmas lights, Xmas decorations, all the small figures necessary for the nativity scene and so on. Also, Christmas carols are played and commercialized in CDs. As of this year, the moss is prohibited to sell since all this is brought from the páramo ecosystem.
Also, there is the best nativity scene contest and exhibition held every year at the Convento de San Francisco in Quito, this is a very interesting exhibition to visit this time of the year.
Expensive or fancy gifts are not traditional, but there is a gift exchange usually at institutions, where you take out a piece of paper with the name of your coworker and only you know for whom you have to buy a gift for, this is called the secret friend (amigo secreto) gift.
At homes, Ecuador’s Christmas traditions include eating Christmas dinner at midnight on Christmas Eve (Noche buena). Christmas (Navidad) in Ecuador is a very family-orientated date, it is the best chance to spend the day with your loved ones and cook something special for dinner or something you have not had the chance to eat during the year because it takes too much time to prepare.
Ecuadorians celebrate Christmas mostly at home, it is a family reunion where everyone collaborates in the house or with the dinner that is being prepared. So much food is made that it will last to eat the three following meals all Christmas day, Also it is a good chance to do sports since all the family is together and chances are that it is a sunny day in every part of Ecuador.
What to bring if you are invited to a Christmas eve dinner in Ecuador? Well there are two easy options the first one is to take a soft beverage, wine, beer, soda or sparkling water, and the other, if you are not sure what to bring the easiest one, is that you ask the head of the family what you can bring.