12/31/2013 06:23 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Welcome To A New Year of Possibilities

As way of saying good riddance to life's nuisances and bad habits, we can't think of a better or more enjoyable way than the Año Viejo (Old Year) tradition in Ecuador.


Photo courtesy of Suzan Haskins,

It's a widespread tradition in much of the world and one worth adopting no matter where you live. Just make a big effigy out of old clothes stuffed with newspapers on a stick framework, and put a mask on it that represents anything or anyone you'd like to put behind you as the New Year starts. (In Ecuador, it's common to see masks of politicians, terrorists, sports opponents, and tiresome entertainment celebrities. Masks of these types made of papier mache fill local shops in Ecuador in the weeks before New Year.)

If you don't want to tempt the fates too much, you can create a generic effigy that doesn't represent anyone in particular. Just write down the things you want to be rid of in the New Year such as anger, illness, or financial troubles on a piece of paper and tuck it inside your effigy's shirt. Add some cigarettes or a bottle of booze or any other bad habits you want to get rid of.

Then stay up on New Year's Eve with a bunch of friends and a large assortment of adult beverages, and when the clock strikes midnight, light it up.


Photo courtesy of Suzan Haskins,

Out with the old and in with the new.

In our little Ecuadorian town, the effigies start to appear on doorsteps and in front of shops the week before the New Year begins, and it's a common pastime to take a walk to view the incredible variety of effigies, much like cruising around town back in the States to view Christmas lights and decorations.

Last year we gathered around a bonfire with our local friends and, at the stroke of midnight, committed our effigy to the flames, just as all around the village our neighbors were burning their effigies on curbs and street corners.

As we watched our burning man, we couldn't help but think that what we were doing was in some way symbolic of expat life. It's an extraordinary thing to walk away from life as you know it and embrace the magic of living in another country. Not everyone can do it...and not everyone who does do it finds the happiness or the solutions they are looking for.

But it's still a big, wonderful world, and there's always next year and the promise once again of sending bad habits and bad thoughts up in smoke.

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