EATING 12 grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve is a popular tradition in Spain, to enter the year with good luck and put the past year behind us.
So, this year more than ever, don’t forget to get your grapes, eat one to coincide with each one of the chimes bringing in the New Year at midnight and make your wishes.
To do so, most Spanish families watch the chimes broadcast on live TV from the Puerta del Sol in Madrid, which is also kilometre 0. Normally, the square would be packed with people who start gathering there hours in advance, but this year, the police will clear the area from 10pm, and there will be no trial run either.
The chiming of the clock will still be broadcast live on Spanish TV, however, most probably accompanied by the usual complicated explanation about when to start eating the grapes, which just ends up confusing most people into eating their first grape either too soon or too late!
Although eating 12 grapes, one for each chime of the clock (or each month of the year) sounds easy, it’s trickier than it looks, especially if you start laughing.
In Spain, it’s traditional to use fresh grapes (other countries use raisins), so to make things a little easier and a lot safer, it’s a good idea to get seedless grapes and peel them before use. But be warned, the price of grapes just before New Year’s Eve always goes up.
There is also the option of buying them in tins if you want to buy them in advance and don’t want them to go bad.
So, where did the tradition come from? There are several different versions, one claiming that in 1909, there was a bumper crop of grapes in Alicante, and to get rid of them farmers introduced a plan which became a tradition.
While it may be true that there were more grapes around that year and this helped to consolidate the tradition, it was already common at least 15 years earlier, as in 1894, it is mentioned in articles in at least two newspaper articles, which also reference that it was done “once again” that year.
It appears that as far back as 1882, it was already customary amongst the bourgeoisie in Spain and France to eat grapes and drink champagne on New Year’s Eve, but that year, a group of people from Madrid, wanting to make a political statement mocking the rich and powerful, took their grapes to the Puerta del Sol and ate them there to the sound of the clock chimes.
There are other customs on New Year’s Eve in Spain too.
They include, wearing red underwear (a tradition which may date back to Medieval times) which should be burned the following day; putting gold in the glass from which you take your sip of champagne to welcome in the New Year; kissing everyone present once the chimes are over (a tradition which will hopefully be skipped this year), and last but not least, taking the first stop into the New Year with your right foot, to erase the bad and start the year on a positive note.
We really need a better year to put 2020 behind us, so, just in case, let’s get the grapes in and have a happy and lucky New Year!
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