Aside from the national public holidays and mischief of Carnaval (see Basics), Quito features several of its own colourful fiestas that are worth a look if you’re in town. The city’s most prominent religious festival is Good Friday, when hundreds of barefooted penitents solemnly cross through the old town in mourning, many dressed in purple robes with pointed hoods, others dragging huge crucifixes and a few even wearing crowns of thorns. Another major event comes on May 24, honouring the day in 1822 that the colony finally threw off the Spanish yoke at the Battle of Pichincha, when Quito erupts in a spectacle of booming cannons and military parades. The biggest fiesta of the year kicks off at the beginning of December and lasts for a week until December 6, marking the city’s foundation. Celebrations include street parties, music and dancing, processions, bullfights at the Plaza de Toros, the election of the Reina de Quito (beauty queen) and general high spirits. December is generally regarded by Quiteños as a party month, topped off on New Year’s Eve with a street parade of años viejos – effigies, often of current political figures, which are burnt at midnight.

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