Tuesday, 31 December 2013

New Year's Eve in the Galapagos

I was invited to celebrate "ano viejo" in the Galapagos.  It was a once in a lifetime adventure and an opportunity I couldn't pass up.  New Year's is one of those things that is celebrated globally with very different traditions and customs as you travel around.  On San Cristobal it's about spending time with your family, dancing the night away and burning all the negative energy from the previous year to encourage a fresh start for the year ahead. 

Unlike here at home, the party doesn't build until it's climax at 12:00.  Instead, the party doesn't really start until the clock strikes 12.  Walking through the town earlier in the evening we would see effigies in front of peoples' houses, in the middle of the street and in squares.  The effigies are symbolic of all of the bad, troubling or difficult time experienced in the past year.  When midnight hits, the fireworks light up the sky and the effigies are set a flame, the sound of music, laughter and cheering fills the air, people sing and dance around the burning effigies and the smell of smoke fills the air. 

As the effigies turned to ash I started to feel as though the trials of the past year were being carried away with the billowing smoke.  With the past being carried off it was time to focus on the present and at present my stomach was rumbling.  Dinner is not served until after midnight on New Years and for someone who is used to having "dinner at 7", that's a long wait, especially when the appetizer is vodka.  We had dinner on a terrace overlooking the town to the sound of the music coming from the square. 

After dinner it was time for dancing.  As we headed down to the square I was introduced to "viudos".  These are men who are dressed as women.  They walk around and try to collect change from passersby in cars.  They can be quite persistent and often block off the road for their own dance party.   No one could tell me why they do that except that it's tradition.  Really, that's good enough reason for me.  It looks a little something like this:

The party carried on until the wee hours of the morning as no one seemed at all interested in going home.  And trust you me, there were some folks at the party who should have been tucked in hours ago.

To all of those lucky enough to be traveling this New Years and all of those living it up at home, I wish you all the best for the coming year.