The chiming of the New Year bells in Spain – be it via the local church bells nearest TV set – heralds a unique, and hilarious tradition. From Madrid to Murcia, Badajoz to Bilbao, Spaniards and visitors the country over hurriedly eat twelve grapes to mark the final twelve seconds of the year.
A vine romance
Whether you’re in a Spanish home, restaurant or even a plaza, you can expect to find your New Year’s Eve meal topped off with a serving of 12 small seedless green grapes – known as Las uvas de la suerte (The grapes of luck). Grocery stores and fruit sellers often sell these by the bunch, or in neatly parceled portions – both fresh and canned.
The grape guzzling tradition dates back to the turn of the last century when Alicantese vineyard owners breathed life into the custom – to hustle grape sales from bumper harvests.
From that time to this, chowing down on one grape per bell toll has been believed to welcome in a new year of prosperity and ward off evil spirits. However, it’s not as easy as sounds…
Raisin the bar
There are various techniques to getting all the grapes down one’s throat in time with the chimes. Most folks just go for it in sporting spirit and end up giving up and laughing.
Other, try to get a head start before the first bell strikes (which is largely frowned upon), others will cram more than one grape in at once. Cutting the grapes in half is appropriate (and advisable) for children and first timers!
Out with the old, in with the sugar-rush
Midnight on New Year’s in Spain is often the start, rather than the culmination of celebrations. Many Spaniards spend the last hours of the old year having dinner with family, before grabbing their grapes at home, or in main squares and making merry until the first sunrise of the New Year.
Madrid’s Puerta del Sol is a hotspot – the birthplace of the tradition and home to the nation’s most famous clock tower, from which the New Year bells ring out to millions as they indulge in sweet, squishy green goodness and sticky kisses.
If your group is planning a trip to Spain over the holiday season, we can help you to organize an authentic New Year’s Eve experience, topped off with a full belly and a barrel of laughs.
We wish you a happy and successful new year 2017!