NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hoping to forget the heart-breaks and hard memories of 2013, people lined up in New York's Times Square on Saturday to discard physical reminders of unpleasant experiences with the help of industrial shredding machines.
The annual Good Riddance Day event, held three days before New Year's Eve, allows people to symbolically purge bad memories by putting photos, documents or written reminders through a massive paper shredder in hopes of clearing a path to a brighter future.
Thomas Avila, 26, one of the first people in line on for the shredder, said 2013 was a roller coaster for him. One of the hardest parts, he said, was telling friends and family he was gay and finding some of them could not accept him.
Shredding the memory was a way of saying "goodbye to my old life," said Avila, 26, who lives in New York's Queens borough. "I know things will get better."
Avila had written in his note for the shredder that he was saying goodbye to "horrible debt and people who betray."
The shredding practice on Good Riddance Day was inspired by a Latin American tradition in which New Year's revelers stuff dolls with objects representing bad memories and set them on fire, according to the organizer, the Times Square Alliance.
For many, the shredding was an attempt to cast off bad habits or bad relationships.
"I'm shredding the reminder of finding out the truth through DNA testing that my daughter is not my biological daughter," said Sam Tlali, 39, who was visiting from Johannesburg, South Africa.
"I think after I do this I will feel relieved," Tlali said.
Gabby Trofa, 19, a college student from Aston, Pennsylvania, visiting New York City for New Year's, had a different goal.
"I want to say good riddance to any stress and worries and the people who bring me down," Trofa wrote in her note.
Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by David Bailey and Dan Grebler