by Tiffany Hoo
Fireworks shoot across the dark, night sky. The loud noise of them breathe life into what would usually be a quiet night and the accompanying sound of the bursting crackers chase away the evil spirits and leave space for holiness and prosperity to come in. The Spanish community, gathered in the town square, are seen decked out in bright clothing, singing to their hearts’ content, wide smiles spread across their faces. This is a common sight that can be seen during the New Year’s Eve in Spain, but there is more to New Year than just these typical scenes.
“Nochevieja”, which directly translated means “old night”, refers to New Year’s Eve. As with most people across the world, majority of the Spanish enjoy spending the day with their beloved family members and close friends.
A particularly interesting tradition observed religiously by the Spanish is “The 12 Grapes” tradition. This tradition dates back long ago in the country’s rich history, namely since the year 1909. The tradition had initially been an attempt by vine growers from the Alicante area to sell large quantities of grapes which had been produced during an excellent harvest in the said year. However, once the King of Spain joined in the fun and his subjects soon followed suit. What started out as a clever marketing strategy soon turned into a long-preserved tradition which has lasted over a century, till this very day!
On the final day of the year, namely the 31st of December, the Spanish community would wait until 12am, with twelve grapes ready to eat. It is also a sacred tradition to listen to the clock from Puerta del Sol in Madrid and in other town squares around the country for “The 12 Grapes” ritual.
When it is midnight in Spain on New Year’s Eve, each time the clock chimes, all the people put a grape in their mouth. By the time the clock has finished chiming for the twelfth time, everybody has to have finished their grapes and the New Year starts. Hence, the Spanish kick start their year with a mouthful of grapes! A rather particularly funny scene, as most would be unable to finish eating the grapes before the final chime and they’ll start laughing at the sight of one another with cheeks filled with unswallowed grapes.
If you manage to eat the 12 grapes then you will have 12 months good luck. Each grape is meant for each of the 12 months and traditionally it is believed that eating grapes at the beginning of the year brings good luck and prosperity for all 12 months.
Although a rather peculiar tradition, there is no doubt that it does bring family and friends closer to one another and enhances the camaraderie between them. And isn’t that what the new years are all about?
by Tiffany Hoo