Joining hands with family and friends our Christmas sky tonight will be filled with a full moon and twinkling stars. Fill your glasses with a rich merlot wine and toast to our beautiful world !
Christmas is an important religious festival in this predominantly Catholic country, with a strong focus on the manger. A western Santa Claus is not very well known, and it is the " christ-child " that brings their gifts.
Our second Christmas in Cuenca in the Sierra mountains. Orchestral concerts playing Christmas carols float through the tropical evening air, twinkling Christmas lights line and cross the Tomebamba river, palm trees and central squares are magically lit.
Soon rivaling our experience of Alumbrados in Medellin, Colombia in 2013. Yesterday's Christmas Eve celebration Pase del Niño, a must-see 500 year old tradition, famous as Latin America's largest, was again a delightful, colourful mix of traditional sacred and indigenous customs.
The parade´s main attraction is an 1823 statute, blessed by the Pope, known as Niño Viajero. The Niño Viajero dressed in a National Police uniform, flew over Cuenca in a helicopter early in the morning. This Christmas tradition begins at 10.00 a.m. every Christmas Eve.
The procession featured bands, dancers, horses, floats, performers, supporting the children in elaborate homemade costumes, and the passage of baby Jesus to his manger in the Old Cathedral for the Midnight Mass. Participants from Ibarra in the north and Loja and Peru in the south.
Our Saraguros in the southern province of Loja combine Christmas celebrations with the observance of Kapak Raymi ( the andean solstice ) They resist Santa Claus, the Christmas tree, and the exchange of gifts from entering their culture. The wikis and ajas (ancestral demons) keep the crowds entertained. Chicha was also offered to Pachamama as thanks for a good harvest.
Along the parade route and in nearby parks and plazas, hundreds of vendors sell traditional foods, cotton candy, ice cream and candy. 7,000 litres of chicha, a traditional holiday beverage made from sugar cane, panela, naranjilla, lemon verbena, cinnamon and star anise is prepared and provided free by the local Pulla Álvarez family. The whole family has carried on this tradition for over 40 years. Canastas ( a food basket ) sweets and biscuits, and Pan de Pascua or Panotone ( a christmas fruit bread ) are given in huge quantities, and seem to take up most of the space in supermarkets during the holiday season.
Although the Christmas Eve parade may be the main event, the Pase del Niño celebration is a three-month-long activity, beginning the first Sunday after Advent and continuing to Carnival in early March. The tradition also includes Novenas, nine consecutive nights of song, food and prayer, celebrated in homes and churches. On Christmas Eve, the "Misa del Gallo," or Rooster Mass, is celebrated in the Cathedral and local churches. Besides Pase del Niño celebrations, Christmas in Cuenca also features nightly firework shows, ( there were fireworks exploding all through the night last night ) concerts and craft sales.
This year we heard and recognized a traditional Mantubian chigualo being sung - a traditional Christmas song from our coastal province of Manabi.
As in North America there is always too much to eat, so that the processions that wind their way along the river into the mountains at the end of the day, are as heavily laden with leftovers as they were arriving with their morning offerings.
Tomorrow a vacation exodus begins as the folks from the Sierra head to coastal beaches for the Christmas and New Year's holidays.
Rompope - here is a recipe for a traditional Ecuadorian Christmas drink, much like eggnog.
We would like to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a festive & a safe holiday season. May your holiday be filled with the fellowship and warmth of family and friends, good health, good food, and fine wine and music. May all of us, regardless of religion, race or creed, remember the true meaning of Christmas
"Peace on earth and goodwill to all."
Season's Greetings from Déborah y Ernesto Millard