Happy New Year! We did not plan to blog today, but after our experience last night we just had to share it. After reading through a few posts on Facebook this morning, we did not have a typical family celebration.
We started at 5 pm with cooking a huge feast with all of our world guests. We had someone from every continent (except Antartica). Don was the grill master, cooking up carne asada, chorizo, and chicken (30 lbs of meat!). The rest of us chopped up pico de gallo, guacamole, fresh fruits, etc. It was great getting to know everyone and celebrating the New Year repeatedly as the clock struck midnight around the world. Around 9 pm, they kicked off a “card game” for the New Year (that involved drinking). We kicked off a tough game of Uno at the next table.
Isaiah talked for hours with a few guys from Sweden about snowboarding. Then he ran into town to buy some fireworks to end out our party. From here, the Ecuadorian traditions start…
We are still trying to figure out what is Ecuadorian tradition and what is a Montanita beach tradition, but we can still share the tradition that we experienced last night. At 11 pm everyone (it seemed like the whole town!) goes to the beach and lights campfires and fireworks. Lots of fireworks.
All week we have been watching the locals make paper mache masks and figures. Each figure and mask is elaborately painted and carved. A lot of time and work are put into these and displayed all over town. Everyone brings their mask to the beach at 11 pm and sets them up all over the beach.
The beach is filled with people…mostly drunk. The smell of smoke is almost overwhelming (weed, campfires, fireworks). I tried to take some pictures, but it was too dark to capture the beach scene, but it was quite a sight!
At 11:30 pm, the surfers all gather together to create a “surfer parade” up and down the beach. They run with their boards, chant something, jump over fires and then lead everyone into the water at midnight. Don and Isaiah were right in the swarm of people catching their first wave of 2014.
The tradition is then to burn the masks in the fires on the beach to symbolize the “letting go” of the past year. We watched for about an hour on the beach and then realized they were also burning the masks in the streets in town. Fascinating to watch!
Did I mention fireworks?!? Yes, there was A LOT of fireworks. Fireworks are not illegal here, so anyone can buy big, huge, explosives off the street. It was like a continual 4th of July firework display for hours. It was amazing to watch until a few were set off into the crowd and became more like missiles than fireworks. Drunk people setting off explosives is not a great idea.
We left the beach around 1:30 am and walked through the dancing streets of Montanita. We got an ice cream and watched the continual celebrations and ended out our evening by 2 am.
The kids all exclaimed that it was by far their most memorable New Year’s Eve ever. I would agree. And just in case they thought all the drinking and dancing looked “fun” last night, we walked through town this morning to see the “fun” all those people are having now as they are holding their heads and a bit hung over. It does not look quite so “fun” anymore.
I cannot truly describe the atmosphere, but it was an experience. We were thankful for the time to see the new culture and traditions, but also thankful that our hope does not lie in the “fun” of this world. The verse “Be in the world, but not of the world” resonated with us last night. We pray that the hope that is within us shines bright.
Happy New Year from Ecuador!