Carnival is held for four days before Ash Wednesday. It is a family vacation for the majority of Panamanians. Carnival, on the other hand, is a full-fledged festival in around 12 towns in Panama, complete with parades, floats, queens, music, dancing, and costumes.
The first two days are dedicated to pre-carnaval activities, such as costume parties and concerts. On February 2, people go to church after midnight mass to pray for good luck and ask forgiveness for all of their sins. On February 3, there is a party atmosphere throughout Panama with free food and drinks offered by local businesses. This is also a good time to meet and catch up with friends. On February 4, after another late night mass, people go back out into the streets to dance and enjoy themselves until dawn.
There are various traditions associated with Carnival in Panama. For example, it is common to give gifts to those you consider important or friendly. These gifts can be anything from money to candy bars. Parents often give gifts to children (either money or toys) to ensure that they will behave while out celebrating.
Another tradition is to give keys to your neighbors' doors to allow them to enter your house if they so desire. This is usually done by putting a key inside a bowl of sugar next to a cup of water outside of each door.
Panama's national public holidays are as follows:
The colder highlands of Panama don't usually celebrate Carnival as much, and when they do, las mojaderas aren't a part of it. These culecos may be seen roaming the parade route, or you could be sprayed by an eager Carnival-goer brandishing a water balloon, water cannon, or bucket. If you are attacked, try not to resist! It makes your attacker feel good and it is easier to defend yourself if you don't fight back.
In addition to balloons and water guns, other common Carnival items include:
Bandi shells - these are used as trumpets and made out of coconuts with the shell removed
Cuernos - these are large wooden spoons used at the end of the meal to remove food from the mouth of the dancer serving it
Gongs - these are metal plates used as instruments in dance bands
Tambourines - these are used to accompany dancers at night
Xylophones - these are used to play music during parades
Panama's climate means that it doesn't get too cold, so flowers are often used in decorating floats for Carnival instead of candles or lights. In addition, no one wears costumes to march in the parades because it is considered disrespectful to dress up for someone else's party.
Every year, Carnival in Ecuador takes place in February or March and concludes on Ash Wednesday. Ecuador celebrates carnival in a very unique way: they toss water balloons, flour-filled sacks, water weapons, and anything else that may make others seem dirty. This tradition dates back to the early days of Ecuador when people would play with mud instead of flour.
Carnival is a time for fun and friendship and is usually associated with masquerades. People dress up in costumes and go out partying.
In Quito, people start gathering together on Monday night to wait for the arrival of the papier-mâché figures called chicha que levantan (beer that wakes up). The artists build these figures throughout the week and on Friday night they are set free into the city streets where people try to catch them!
The morning after the release, people go to different places in Quito to watch the chicha que corren (running beer) throw a party all day long. During this time, groups of drinkers chase after the figures while singing and dancing along the way. When the figure gets tired, it drops off the beer's tail and another one takes its place!
People also drink during Lent as a way of showing their remorse over their sins. By drinking, they hope to find forgiveness from God.