Sunday, December 29, 2013

Set fire to Celebrities: Años Viejos at New Year

Año Viejo dummies in EcuadorBurning idols is an Ecuadorian tradition on New Year's Eve. Across the country the night sky will be lit by an eerie amber glow as millions of dummies are scorched on the streets.

The dummies are known as Años Viejos and represent the year that has passed. Who you choose to burn is entirely up to you, but typically it should be a popular figure or icon from the last twelve months.

Of course you can get creative and make your own doll, but there are plenty of ready-made dolls for sale. They cost anywhere between three dollars and twenty... depending how elaborate the effigy is.

Año Viejo dummies in Ecuador
Rafael Correa effigy
Of course politicians make popular choices and there were plenty of cardboard Correas on sale. In England I can imagine millions of Margaret Thatchers going up in flames at the stroke of midnight. There are also hundreds of Barack Obamas ready for the burn.

Año Viejo dummies in Ecuador
Burn Barack
Another popular choice was the Ecuadorian footballer Christian Benitez who died of a heart attack during a match in Qatar aged just 27. On the back of his shirt was written the poetic message: “Now I'm by God's side and will enjoy the World Cup 2014 from heaven.”


This is a crucial point – you don't have to hate the person you're burning (although it's probably more fun if you do).

There were lots of stalls selling dummies inside Parque de la Carolina and I've never seen so many copyright violations in all my life. To be honest, I think the offenders would have a watertight case in defence - their effigies are so unrecognisable that they couldn't possibly breach intellectual copyright. Bart Simpson, for example, was just a fat kid painted yellow, only identifiable by BART painted across his forehead.
Año Viejo dummies in Ecuador
Copyright infringements ahoy! That's Bart Simpson by the way, although I'm not sure why he's blue
At the stroke of midnight the Años Viejos are torched like a Viking funeral. You jump over your burning effigy and welcome in the New Year.

If all of this sounds a little bit too safe and tame, the locals fill their effigies with fireworks to make the leap of faith a bit more daring.

I haven't decided who I will burn, but I suppose it will have to be somebody British.

The trouble is I can't really imagine burning somebody I don't hate... and I don't really hate anybody. Apart from Steven Gerrard obviously; and that guy from the Go Compare adverts; and anybody who's ever auditioned for the X Factor; and Luis Suarez of course; oh and I nearly forgot George Galloway (and I'll throw in Ken Livingstone while I'm on cretinous politicians); and then there's the person who cloned my Visa card; Andrew Marr; Piers Morgan (goes without saying); all Royal commentators on the BBC; Mark Lawrenson; the street dog in Quito who barks all night; and finally Steven Gerrard again. God, it's going to be quite a bonfire.


Año Viejo dummies in Ecuador
You really have to use your imagination to guess who the dummies are... could this be Sylvester Stallone or a young David Cameron?

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