Eating 12 grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve for good luck for the coming year might sound superstitious, but in Spain it is a tradition that is well observed! Attempting to eat one grape for each of the 12 strokes of midnight is a fun challenge and is attempted by many for luck in the 12 months of the new year.
It’s a challenge because eating 12 grapes in 12 seconds requires a lot of concentration, and it surely guarantees kicking off the year with an adrenaline rush, as well as lots of giggling and laughter. We recommend buying small, seedless grapes as these are easier to pop and swallow quickly.
Origin of the tradition
There is more than one origin to the story of this New year tradition. One version is that it started at the end of the 1800s, when an overflow of grapes was harvested.
Another narrative says the tradition was created by vine growers from Alicante, who simply wanted to make a statement against a tax imposed by the mayor of Madrid, senior José Abascal y Carredano.
The last account states that working class Madrilians decided to gather at La Puerta del Sol plaza and imitate rich upper-class families and their habit of eating grapes and drinking Champagne or cava to celebrate the New Year.
Whichever story is true, an original tradition was created and people from all over Spain celebrate with 12 grapes and cava to kickstart the new year. Some revellers gather at popular places in their town to celebrate en masse, whilst others prefer to stay at home and follow the live broadcast on TV.
A guide to eat 12 grapes correctly
- 35 seconds before midnight the Puerto del Sol clock tower starts lowering a ball towards the main bell.
- Once that ball hits the main bell, you hear four double chimes to alert everyone and get ready.
- Once the clock strikes midnight you hear the 12 chimes, and at each of those you eat a grape!
Other Spanish New Year’s traditions
Shops are filled with red underwear leading up to the new year. This tradition is especially followed by those who plan to fall in love in the coming year! Believers say you will find love only if the underwear is a gift. Others keep it more personal and wear it on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
Gold in a glass of cava
Drop a gold object into your glass of cava before midnight if you dream of a fortune! At midnight drink the glass of cava and repossess your gold object. A golden wedding ring apparently assures fidelity, which really is good fortune.
We wish you all a Happy New Year and with this tradition good luck for the next 12 months and beyond!
We are residents of this beautiful country since a few months. If we learn about more lucky Spanish traditions , we will surely update this article as we can never have enough lucky habits!