All Ecuador celebrates Christmas.
The streets and churches have special decoration with Nativity scenes, lighting and ornaments.
Ecuadorian Christmas celebrations are a colorful, and often bizarre, mixture of the sacred and the profane.
The majority of holidays in Ecuador are the result of the Christian colonization that modified the rituals and celebrations of the indigenous community.
Andean and ancestral religion moved to the Catholic religion which until today is charged of syncretism with indigenous ancestral world and nature.
Pase del Niño
One of the Ecuadorian Christmas traditions is Pase del Niño, or Passing of the Child.
It is a time-honored festival of thanksgiving and homage that combines Catholic and indigenous traditions.
Pase del niño is a religious procession representing the characters of Christmas with tableau vivant.
Joseph and Mary with the child in arms on a donkey pass through the streets; the community with prayers and songs accompanies them.
Pase del Niño is celebrated in every school, high school, municipality and parish.
The procession includes the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, pastors, angels and different animals.
But it may also include a Santa Clause, elves, clowns, featured floats, decorated cars, flowers, fruits and vegetables and anything the Ecuadorian imagination can come up with.
Introduced to Latin America by the Spanish almost 500 years ago, the Pase del Niño is a Christmas celebration in which likenesses of the infant Jesus are carried through towns and villages.
In Ecuador, the tradition remains strongest in the Andean region.
Every neighborhood and town will have its own parade with its own entries.
Each will carry its own statue of the Christ child.
This is something that communities plan for the entire year.
A Christmas procession that goes on until the Carnival
Although the Christmas Eve parade may be the main event, the Pase del Niño celebration is a three-month-long activity.
It begins the first Sunday after Advent and continues to Carnival in early March.
In addition, the nativity scene or so-called "nacimientos", are assembled in the majority of Ecuadorian homes, which are representations of the birth of Jesus.
The families gather around the nativity scene in their houses to pray the traditional novena before December 25.
Novenas are 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.
The midnight mass or “Misa del Gallo”, is celebrated at midnight, and is called Rooster Mass because you are supposed to be able to hear the roosters waking up while getting back to home.
In this way people receive December 25 to commemorate the birth of the baby Jesus.
Traditions of Pase del Niño
There are two types of Passes: greater and minor.
The first ones are those with a great number of participants. In these processions the people worship a Niño Dios (God as a child) that belongs to a temple or religious community.
The minor Pass involves a smaller number of participants and it is generally of familiar nature.
There is also a very complex ritual preceding the performance of Passes, it includes an invitation and watch.
The invitation is extended with many months in advance and it is addressing the city people as well as peasants.
All guests get a present from the president; it is usually of sweet bread commonly known as “costar” and a glass of “chicha” (a sweet drink).
Accepting the gift will mean a commitment to take part in the Pass.
Finally, the night before mass, a watch is performed.
All participants “accompany” the image of Niño Dios in a church when it is a greater Pass, and the host’s home when it is a minor Pass.
When the watch is performed at someone’s home it is very common for the guests to bring along liquor and food to celebrate the event which will end at dawn with a cup of coffee, canelazos or hot chocolate and a piece of bread.