New Years Eve comes with a lot of hype. Everyone is planning and talking about it, looking forward to it for months, and when it comes down to it, it usually goes by just like most other nights. This year was a New Years that I will never forget, obviously, because I'm an exchange student…. but also because of the uniquely spectacular Ecuadorian New Year tradition.

In Ecuador on New Years, everyone burns an año viejo- the word for the sometimes enormous paper macho figures that literally means old year. At midnight, you go outside to burn the old year, and with it all the bad memories or moments that you had during it. We burn the año viejo to give ourselves a fresh start in the new year.

In Guayaquil there is a street called 6 de Marzo where all of the año viejos are sold. Here is a video with some examples of what they look like:

Some of these figures are life size, and larger then life with some for sale that were 6 meters high! Here's a video that shows some true giants that were in my city last year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjRsWkIMzpc

So at midnight I went outside with my family and watched as the entire city became lit up. At home, an Ecuadorian New Year is completely illegal, and I couldn't help cringing as I thought of all the fire hazards as I watched people set off fireworks and burn down giant dolls all over the city.

Despite my fear of catching on fire, I love this tradition. I think it is so beautiful and exciting to literally burn away all the bad stuff from the year before and start with a clean slate.