The day after our Halloween Celebration, on November 2nd Ecuador celebrates Día de Los Difuntos.  This is a holiday where families gather together to cook traditional foods, celebrate their family, and honor their ancestors.  Last year, I wrote about my wanderings around the local cemeteries where I watched families clean gravesites, and picnic around the headstones to share their ancestors’ favorite foods.  Now that I’m living with my own Ecuadorian family, I was able to spend this special holiday with them.  And since we had the Halloween party the night before, we had a houseful of guests to continue our 
weekend-long celebration.  
The morning started at 6:00am in our outdoor kitchen with Margarita’s Mom, Elvita, providing directions to the women in the family on how to prepare the traditional Colada Morada.  “Colada” is a word that refers to a warm, thick beverage.  “Morada” is the color purple.  Therefore, this is a very purple, warm, frothy drink that is made from a variety of fruits that need to be cleaned, peeled, cut, seeded and often blended before being added to the pot.  
Here’s Margarita and her cousin Yessenia helping with the blackberries.   
Another cousin, Rosio, is dissolving the “black corn” flour that works as a thickener in the recipe. 
Strawberries, Blackberries, Blueberries, Pineapple, Babacoa, and lots of wonderful spices such as Cinnamon, Allspice, Cloves, and Lemon Verbena get cooked and strained to make this drink.
Yummy!  It’s really one of my favorite beverages in Ecuador!
But there wasn’t much time to enjoy it!  My little brother, Pablo, was turning 8 years old, and he shares his birthday with his little cousin, Israel.  Margarita and Jose had asked Pablo if he wanted a party for his birthday, or a big toy.  Being an incredibly social kid, he chose the party.  Since so many of Margarita’s family members were making the trip from Quito for the holiday, Margarita decided it was the perfect time to celebrate two special birthdays as well.  So, we were barely finished cleaning up from the Colada Morada, when we had to start decorating the house for the birthday party.  
                               And it wasn’t long before the inflatable castle and guests arrived.

I think the Dads and Uncles had as much fun as the kids!
A family of party coordinators were also hired to act as the MC’s of the party.  They painted faces…
…and led the kids in games.
This was a hilarious “trading hats” game enjoyed by all! 
Here’s the birthday boys: Pablo is in the yellow hat with his little cousin, Israel. 
Then, the party came inside for the “cracking” of the piñata. 
And after that, the wildest “dance party” ensued with balloons, spray foam and blowing confetti.  I’ve never experienced anything quiet like it in the living room of a house.  I figured out quickly why the party coordination company is titled “Hora Loca”, which means “Crazy Hour”!

Margarita and Jose joining in the fun!
Next, Pablo cut his cake, decorated like his favorite fútbal club!  
And Jose and Margarita gave appreciation speeches to all the guests. 
Finally, we served buckets of popcorn and hotdogs to everyone
and took turns taking pictures with Margarita’s special photo frame.
Pablo and his Grandmother, Margarita’s Mom, Elvita
Pablo and his brother Alex
And then, just like that, the party was over.  Everyone staying at the house grabbed a broom and a garbage bag, and everything got cleaned up and back to normal really fast.  Before too long, a family fútbol game started in the backyard with only the street lights to illuminate the field.  
As the evening wound down, the adults settled in for a warm night-cap, and lively discussions: around the dining room table and in front of the fireplace.  There were at least thirty of us, so I gave up the privacy of my bedroom to others who needed it more.
Then, sometime late in the evening, the rest of us found a blanket and some floor space to share.  
While living in Ecuador, I’ve missed the last two Thanksgiving holidays with my US Family.  
With today’s traditional foods, family time and laughter, it came pretty close.

I’m really thankful I can be a part of this wonderful family.