Each New Year’s Eve, more than 2 million revelers — twice as many as typically fill Times Square — dress in white and pack Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro to watch a 15-minute midnight fireworks extravaganza.

The one-night hedonistic release is one of the world’s largest New Year’s celebrations and leaves Copacabana’s famed 2.4 miles of sand strewed with trash.

But it began as something far more spiritual.