Spongebob in Flames: The New Year's Eve Effigy Burning in Ecuador

It’s a New Year’s Eve tradition in Ecuador (and other Central and South American countries) to burn effigies that are symbolic of the old year (“año viejo”). They range from simple family projects that resemble scarecrows to elaborate works of art depicting politicians and pop culture figures.

The tradition of the effigy burning is said to go back to an 1895 yellow fever epidemic that hit Guayaquil especially hard. That year people packed coffins with the clothes of the dead and set them in flames, the act being both a symbol as well as a purification rite. Now the figures that are burned are much more lighthearted and elaborate, with some towering effigies vividly painted and paraded through the city, while some families make due with sort of scarecrows stuffed with newspaper and covered with a mask purchased from one of the many street vendors. Before the evening's arson, men will dress as the "widows" of the effigies and beg for money in mourning in the streets.

See a collection of images showing some really elaborate año viejo effigies ready to go and a few being burned, at Atlas Obscura.

(Image credit: Flickr user Lowfill Tarmak)

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