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Burn the “old year” to start a New Year in Ecuador

Friday, Dec 12, 2014

On New Year’s Eve in Ecuador, people around the country bring effigies of politicians, pop culture figures and other icons of the year to torch in the streets. This powerful communal tradition of burning the “año viejo” (“old year”) is symbolic of cleansing the bad habits from the previous 12 months. Most effigies are made of cloth and filled either with paper, old clothes, sawdust, ground cardboard, straw or leaves. This tradition is widespread throughout the country and each region creates effigies with cultural and social experiences specific to their area. The tradition is the strongest in the Pacific coast where the effigies are quite often the largest and the displays are more elaborate. The cities of Quito and Guayaquil also host large public demonstrations and competitions organized by local newspapers. El Universo newspaper in Guayaquil and Diario Hoy in Quito organize, judge, and award prizes to the winners of the best “años viejos” in their cities. In Quito, the event is witnessed by hundreds of thousands of spectators who visit Amazonas Avenue to observe a wrap-up of the year’s events via the “año viejo” displays. During the day, most cars drive around with effigies tied to the front or on the roof. At midnight, the effigies are burned as a ritual of purification and renewal, a cleansing of old, negative energy, individual and collective failures, regrets, bad habits, bad luck and evil from the previous year. Oftentimes, the effigies are heaped together in big piles to create large fires in the middle of the streets. It is said that jumping over the burning effigies brings good luck to those who successfully accomplish this feat. For more information on Ecuador, please visit