|Related EE.com Pages|
|Ecuadorian Culture and People|
|Holidays in Ecuador by V!VA|
Holidays in Ecuador
Ecuador is a country with a thriving tradition of holidays, festivals and celebrations. Indeed, most months include at least one major festival or long weekend, which usually involve colorful ceremonies and lavish feasts.
Because Ecuador is over 90% Roman Catholic, most of the country’s major holidays and celebrations follow the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church. Boasting the year’s most extravagant festivities, these holidays can often be appreciated best in highland indigenous villages where days of nonstop feasting, drinking, dancing and performing ancient rituals give traditional Catholic holidays a distinctly Andean feel. Most of the remaining holidays are celebrated to commemorate important political or historical events and achievements.
While holidays offer visitors an extraordinary glimpse at Ecuadorian culture and a unique opportunity to mingle with locals, they can also cause frustration by virtually shutting down the country. Often, banks, businesses and governmental offices close, and popular tourist destinations become overrun. Therefore, visitors’ experiences during holidays depend on how well they plan. Use the following guidelines to plan your holiday experience:
Find out ahead of time when holidays are;
Find out ahead of time where locals go for the holiday (or holidays) in question; decide where you want to be accordingly;
Organize accommodations and transportation in advance, especially if you’re going to a popular destination; expect prices to be higher.
To help you best plan your trip, see the below list of Ecuador’s major holidays, celebrations, and festivities.
The list is far from comprehensive, as many small communities and villages don’t appear on national lists. (For a general description of other Ecuadorian festivals and celebrations, please refer to our festivals page and our indigenous markets page.) The following list includes the most important holidays along with corresponding dates and a brief description of festivities that are usually involved.
Those marked with an asterisk (*) are officially recognized holidays during which most government offices and businesses close. However, these holidays are rarely celebrated on a fixed date. Often, if an officially recognized holiday falls on a weekend, it is observed on the preceding Friday or the proceeding Monday, making a three-day weekend. Likewise, if an officially recognized holiday falls midweek, it may be moved to the preceding Monday or the proceeding Friday. Such decisions are frequently not announced until the last minute; sometimes Ecuadorians do not find out when a holiday will be observed until one day before. Accordingly, your best bet in these situations is to keep asking around, especially at banks or governmental offices.
New Year’s Day*
Three Kings Day (a.k.a. Epiphany)
Anniversary of the Discovery of the Amazon River
Province Day (Galápagos)
National Community Spirit Day
February / March
Celebrated just before Lent, Carnaval is the ultimate party in the Catholic nations of Latin American. While not as extravagant in Ecuador as in Brazil for example, celebrations here include water fights and lavish parades. Ambato is a good destination with its famous fruit and flower parade takes place. Guaranda is another hot spot. Although the dates change annually according to the religious calendar, Carnaval is always celebrated as an extended weekend prior to Ash Wednesday.
Some of the year’s more festive celebrations take place in Holy Week when traditional religious processions give way to marathon feasts.
Easter and Holy Week*
Religious processions and an endless supply of fanesca (a delicious, typical stew eaten throughout the week) mark Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. Holy Saturday is the only official holiday on which stores must be closed, and merchants decide to open or close on the other days. Beaches can get packed during Holy Week.
Typical parades and processions fill the streets of Ecuador, honoring workers worldwide.
Battle of Pichincha*
Military and civilian parades mark the day in 1822 when the country’s most important battle in the war for independence from Spain was fought.
Usually celebrated on the 9th Thursday after Easter, this religious holiday / traditional highlands harvest celebration includes ceremonies and dancing.
Saint John the Baptist
Celebrations in Otavalo and the surrounding highland communities.
Saints Peter and Paul
Celebrations in Otavalo and the surrounding highland communities, and on the coast, where San Pedro and San Pablo are the patron saints of fishermen.
Simón Bolívar’s Birthday*
A nationwide celebration of the birthday of the famous South American liberator.
Founder’s Day, Guayaquil
For two days, Guayaquil enjoys its biggest celebration of the year. The city shuts down for two days to celebrate Simón Bolívar’s birthday and the foundation of Ecuador’s most populous coastal city.
Quito Independence Day*
Various harvest festivals throughout the country
Fiesta del Yamor
An annual festival in the highland town of Otavalo.
Our Lady of Mercy Festival (Latacunga)
Parades and parties follow religious processions.
Whether it’s time to celebrate Carnival or a harvest festival, the small towns of the highlands are the place to be.
Guayaquil Independence Day*
Once again, Guayaquil combines holidays (Independence Day and Columbus Day) enjoying a multi-day festival.
Also known as Día de la Raza (Day of the Race), Columbus Day celebrates the day in 1492 on which Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colón) first set foot on American soil in what is now known as the Dominican Republic.
All Saints’ Day*
All Souls’ Day (a.k.a. Day of the Dead)*
On All Souls’ Day, families visit cemeteries to dance, drink, eat, and leave flowers and other offerings for deceased friends and relatives in a convivial ceremony designed to celebrate the lives of those who have passed on.
Cuenca Independence Day*
The culmination of three days of festivities, this is the final day of Cuenca’s biggest annual celebration.
Latacunga Independence Day
Founder’s Day, Quito – Fiestas de Quito
The air in Quito takes on a more festive spirit throughout the first week of December as Quiteños take in bullfights, parades and street dances, and ride around Quito atop chivas (open-air party buses complete with live music and drinks). Also known as Fiestas de Quito, this week is the opening act to a month-long gala for many.
Year’s End Celebrations
Starting with the Day of the Innocents, the entire nation symbolically prepares to enter a new year by burning human effigies in the streets as Quiteños end a nearly month-long party. Men also dress up as Viudas Alegres (Merry Widows).