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

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photograph by Carlos Adampol

Happy New Year's Eve! Ready to burn your effigy?

In Ecuador at the stroke of midnight, people around the country bring effigies of politicians, pop culture figures, and other icons of the year to torch in the streets. This tradition of burning the “año viejo” ("old year") is symbolic of cleansing the bad from the previous 12 months before the new year commences. If you're going for extra credit, you can even jump the flames 12 times for each month, although you risk joining the effigy yourself in the fire. 

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. 

Below are some photographs from the “año viejo” festivities, where you'll see that fictional characters are as popular as political. Although just what incinerating X-Men's Gambit or Futurama's Bender will do to clear the bad vibes of the year isn't clear, but it does look like a cathartic way to end the year.

article-imagevia Prefectura de la Provincia del Guayas

article-imagevia Agencia de Noticias ANDES

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photograph by Michael Zole

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photograph by Lowfill Tarmak

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photograph by po5i/Flickr user

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via Agencia de Noticias ANDES

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photograph by Michael Zole

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via Agencia de Noticias ANDES

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photograph by Francisco Laso

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photograph by Michael Zole

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via Agencia de Noticias ANDES

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photograph by Esteban Mendieta Jara

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via Agencia de Noticias ANDES

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photograph by Michael Zole

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photograph by Lowfill Tarmak

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photograph by Eduardo Ochoa

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photograph by Carlos Adampol

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via Prefectura de la Provincia del Guayas

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photograph by Eduardo Ochoa

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photograph by Bill Herndon

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