Here in Ecuador Christmas and New Years were enjoyable and interesting events. Christmas had a nine-day procession in the streets with the children dressed up as either Joseph with painted on beards or Maria with a doll in a shawl on her back. Christmas Day Mass included ten baptisms.
The priest had a special prayer for the mothers (ten women) and then for the fathers (three men). This is very typical here that there are many single mothers struggling to raise their children. Many teen pregnancies also. I was thinking that these women asking to baptize their children on Christmas could easily relate to Mary´s societal disgrace at being pregnant and criticized.
Another tradition here is huge, very elaborate manger scenes. I have even seen some that have three figures of the baby Jesus. All have many animals (pigs, geese, lions, horses, sheep, giraffes, ect…) and many extra people figures too. Mary and Joseph are moved daily a little closer to the stable and the Magi are also slowly brought up. The photo below is of one such manger scene in the convent of the Sisters here in Guadalupe with the children of a medical volunteer working here.
New Years celebrations are very different here. The custom is to make a scarecrow type figure that they then dance with. The group of dancers are dressed as: devils, men dressed as women, women dressed as old men, traditional Indian figures, etc…. Then the scarecrows are put in a pile to set on fire and the kids try to jump over them to bring good luck for the year.
Then fireworks and dancing till dawn. As I was sick and running a fever I only stayed out about an hour and watched the fireworks from the comfort of my room. The following photo is of the group of dancers.
Due to family needs I have decided to return to the USA in February to help out for awhile. I am so very thankful for the support (financial and personal) I have received from LMH. The support allowed me to continue working here in Ecuador. Thank you to all of the benefactors who have been supporting my misión work. It has been a blessing to have been able to work here. I will miss Ecuador, the people and the work here in the clinic. It has been a great 17 years. I pray for all the people and benefactors who allow the mission work of LMH to continue.