All Saints’ and All Souls’ : enjoying a few days off in November in Ecuador
This year, Ecuadorians enjoyed a very long break end of October/beginning of November. All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day are both holidays, and just happened to be on Monday and Tuesday, so many people took advantage of the calendar to enjoy a long weekend. Even the government added to the joy, including also November 3rd, a local holiday in Cuenca (celebrating the anniversary of the independence of this city), as an extra national holiday. The goal being to reactivate national tourism.
But of course, in a rather religious country, it wasn’t all about enjoying free days, even though many people did go and enjoy a few days at the beach or hiking in the mountains. It is firstly about honouring the deceased.
Honoring the deceased / Day of the dead in Ecuador
As in many countries, people go and visit the graves of their departed family members or friends, clean them up nicely, bring them flowers. In more rural areas, there are also nice traditions: a more or less large circle of family members gather, all of them bringing different traditional dishes, and they settle down around the grave of a beloved deceased, where they have a picnic. It is a way for them to share with the deceased, in joy rather than grief, telling the departed what has been going on in their respective lives. Instead of being a sad moment, it becomes a happy way to reunite.
Last year, because of the pandemic, the government had decided to keep all the cemeteries closed, in order to avoid any risk of gatherings. So this year, people were glad they could resume their tradition, especially since many people have lost loved ones over the last year and a half without being able to say a proper goodbye.
All Saints’ and All Souls’ culinary traditions in Ecuador
Where there’s a party, there’s food! Right?
In Ecuador, since early October already!, bakeries started selling the traditional All Souls’ food: guaguas de pan and colada morada.
Guaguas de pan
In Ecuadorian slang, it literally means “bread toddlers” or “bread kids”. Guaguas is the most common word used here to talk about children, it comes from the Quichua language (guagua or wawa). Therefore, inhabitants of neighboring countries just might not understand you if you use that word!
So what are they? Well are the name shows, they are little breads in a form that should make you think of a little kid, as you can see on the illustration of this article. There are many varieties of guaguas, all sizes, from individual to sharing size, all possible fillings (cream, marmalade, chocolate…) and of course you need a nice decoration (usually colored sugar, but also chocolate…). All kids get their guagua de pan at school, but also at home! (and adults too, because it’s delicious!)
It’s the drink that goes with your bread. It is an old, pre-colombian, recipe, for a rather thick fruit juice. Many people buy it already made rather than preparing it at home, as it is made of no less than 25 ingredients! Among them: a variety of local fruit (blackberries, strawberries, wild blueberries but also pineapple, naranjilla…), purple corn flour that gives the drink its typical purple (morada) color and its thickness, an extensive list of herbs and spices (among which cinnamon, cloves, lemongrass, sweet pepper…) and not to forget sugar, usually unrefined whole cane sugar. For those who choose to prepare the drink at home, some stores sell already prepared spices and herbs packages, as some ingredients are sometimes harder to find.
As the ingredients’ list shows, it is a thick, but pretty sweet juice, simply delicious!
As for many traditions, especially the food-related ones, people like to enjoy them more than just one day in the year. If these specific foods are not found all-year round, you can enjoy them already a good month before celebrating the day of the deceased, and still a few weeks after that, before they get totally replaced by Christmas themed food.
Guaguas de pan and Colada Morada are something we had never heard of before settling in Ecuador, and now we’re really fond of it, it makes this period “before the Christmas period” very special and agreable!