AMERICA/ECUADOR - Summer time Christmas, widespread devotion to the Baby Jesus and solidarity with the poor

Wednesday, 22 December 2004

Quito (Fides Service) - Snow and ice would seem to be essential elements at Christmas. But not everywhere. In Ecuador people go to midnight Mass in the heat of the Summer night. People here love coloured lights, music, festivities, as early as November they start decorating homes even the poorest districts and Christmas music is heard, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Ecuador Father Timoteo Lehane, SVD told Fides.
Christmas is keenly felt in Ecuador where people are very devoted to the Infant Jesus. The Novena of Christmas organised by pastoral workers in the different districts is well attended. A different Novena text is prepared every year and families welcome people into their homes. The presence of children is important, it is after all the feast of children. People sing carols known as "chigualos". Sometimes the Christmas Novena continues after Christmas because people like welcoming the community into their homes to sing to the Child Jesus. The Novena is kept all over Ecuador, in villages and cities, rural and coastal areas.
In many towns on Christmas Eve there is a procession with the Child followed by a live Nativity Scene. Then everyone accompanies the Holy Family to church for Midnight Mass. In some parishes midnight Mass is followed by refreshments to celebrate the birth of the Saviour.
In rural areas there is a tradition of the "Priostes" : families welcome the Child to their home with carols and prayers followed by refreshments usually in the evening when the men have come home from work.
Another tradition at Christmas is solidarity with needy children and old people. A family or a whole district organises a party for poor children and old people with refreshments and music. (R.G.) (Agenzia Fides 22/12/2004; righe 30, parole 468)