So here in the lovely country of Ecuador they have a tradition that they do for the new year, and frankly I think it rocks. (Of course, there are fire hazards involved, so kids . . . if you're reading this--you must have parental supervision before trying this at home. I'm serious.)
People down here love a good fiesta. And what makes any party better, I ask you . . . FIRE! That's right. Right after Christmas you'll see a bunch of people standing very still on the street corners in Ecuador. Upon closer investigation, you'll realize these are not real people. It's really just old clothes stuffed with newspaper and amazingly life-like masks on. You can buy one of these munecas (dolls) for four bucks. Then on New Year's Eve, you lay your doll out in the street, along with items from the last year, or papers with bad things from the last year written on them (regrets, or things you would rather forget), and you burn the sucker! My fellow volunteers and I had our own effigy burning, and it was amazing the catharsis that comes with burning something like that. It's really meant to symbolize leaving behind the old year and starting off with a clean slate. I definitely want to bring that tradition home with me.
And for all of you wondering what was written on my "old year" paper, I'll tell you. Really it's kind of lame, but I had a good year and couldn't think of much that I wanted to go up in smoke. I wrote, "strep throat, bad habits, and broken camera." Yes, my superb Sony digital camera with the honkin' huge LCD is busted and I'm totally bitter, but that's another story.
Let me know what you would have reduced to ashes if you had a chance on New Year's Eve.