Suitcase for the New Year

The informant is a 23 year old female, originally from Salt Lake City, who recently was a Peace Corps volunteer in the city of Guayaquil in Ecuador. While in Ecuador she lived with a host family and observed and participated in many Ecuadorian customs and traditions.  One tradition she was exposed to was a New Year’s which she describes below.

“A New Year’s tradition was if you hoped to travel in the new year, around the cusp of new year, preferably on the last day of the old year, you were supposed to take an empty suitcase or an empty traveling bag and have it be completely empty but carry it or roll it around the block.  And to do so would symbolize that that empty parcel would be filled with memories and adventures.”

When asked whether this tradition was used to symbolize hopes for both physical travel and metaphorical ‘life journey’ travel (such as getting married, getting a new job, anything that is a major step in the journey of your life), the informant said that she only saw it used to symbolize hopes for physical travels.  She also said that it was not restricted to ages and that both the old and the young participated.



You see a pretty clear direct symbolism in this custom between the empty suitcase and the hope that it will become filled with travel memories.  New Years is a time of beginnings were disappointments in the old year are moved past and hopes are expressed for the year to come.

One interesting aspect of this custom is that the suitcase is rolled around the block.  This could symbolize both that, even though they hope to travel, home will still be with them and, similarly, that they will return home after their travels (their journey around the block both encompasses their home as well as starts and ends at their home).