New York City might get all of the attention for its New Year's Eve celebration, but if you're looking for a place that truly embraces the idea of "out with the old, in with the new," find your way to Ecuador.
Since 1895, when a yellow fever epidemic brought crowds together to burn the clothes of the dead as a symbolic cleansing, the South American nation has celebrated the new year with bonfires and burning.
People congregate in the streets with effigies (known as monigotes) of much-loathed figures from the previous year, from politicians to pop culture icons. They set them alight as a symbolic way to rid themselves of the año viejo ("old year"). The effigies range in size from simple scarecrows purchased from vendors to home-made monstrosities that are paraded on shoulders through the streets. Some of the monigotes gigantes can be well over over 10 feet (3 meters) tall.
In a surreal twist on the traditional custom, it is becoming increasingly popular to torch superheroes and cartoon characters, such as the X-Men or SpongeBob SquarePants. And if you want to really fit in, you can try jumping across the bonfire 12 times, in recognition of the 12 months to which you are saying goodbye. Just make sure to do it before the flames grow too high.
More on Ecuador:
- Because of Earth's shape and rotation, Ecuador's highest peak, Mount Chimborazo, is closer to outer space than any other point.
- A monument near Ecuador's capital of Quito allows you to stand in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres at the same time.
- Ecuador is the only country on Earth named for a geological feature -- you can probably guess what it is!