Across the world, people come together on 31st December and 1st January to ring in the coming of the New Year, with traditions ranging from jumping waves in Brazil to eating noodles in Japan. Spain, too, has a number of charmingly distinctive ways to welcome in the coming year on New Year’s Eve. From eating 12 grapes to wearing red underwear, here are some of the most unique Spanish traditions to celebrate the New Year. 

Eat 12 grapes as the clock chimes midnight 

Perhaps the most famous Spanish New Year’s tradition is to eat 12 grapes as the clock strikes midnight (charmingly named ‘las doce uvas de la suerte’ - the twelve grapes of luck). According to tradition, each grape represents one month of the coming year, and to eat all 12 is a sign of a fortuitous year to come. At 12am on New Year’s Day, families and friends gather together across Spain and, when the first chimes of the New Year clang, people old and young attempt to eat one grape per chime of the clock. The tradition stems from Madrid, where thousands of people gather together in the Puerta del Sol on New Year’s Eve, waiting for the clock to strike midnight. 

For more information on visiting Madrid, visit www.esmadrid.com/en. 

Pop a bottle of cava... and pop something gold in the glass 

The New Year is often celebrated with a glass of something bubbly, and in Spain, it is traditional to raise a toast with a glass of cava, a sparkling Spanish wine. However, for added luck, Spaniards often drop a small gold item into their glass, such as a piece of jewellery or a coin, and make a wish: if the drinker manages to finish their drink, it is said that they will receive their request. Cava originates from the Spanish region of Catalonia, and the region can still lay claim to some of the finest vintages. Travellers to Catalonia should not miss sipping on a glass of this ‘denominación de origen’ listed wine, which is a strong contender to Italy’s prosecco and France’s champagne.  

For more information on visiting Catalonia and Barcelona, visit www.catalunya.com and www.barcelonaturisme.com. 

Tuck into a bowl of lentils on New Year’s Day 

On New Year’s Day, people throughout Spain can be found enjoying a hearty bowl of lentils, often with the addition of circular slices of chorizo. Whilst January is a chilly month, this tradition is not simply about warming up, with the circular lentils said to represent coins, a sign of good luck for the year ahead. Lentils are enjoyed throughout Spain, though most often associated with this versatile legume are the northern regions of Asturias, Galicia and Cantabria.  

For more information on visiting Asturias, Galicia and Cantabria, visit www.turismoasturias.es/en, www.turismo.gal and https://cantabriaspain.co.uk. 

Wear red underwear 

The tradition of wearing red underwear in some parts of Europe during New Year may date back to the Medieval period, and the colour has long been associated with romance. Donning red underwear on New Year’s Eve is said to bring good luck in the wearer’s love life and, across Spain in the lead-up to New Year’s Eve, shop windows can often be seen filled with crimson undergarments. The twist in some parts of Spain is that red underwear is only lucky if given as a gift; a love-seeking individual will not benefit from its charm if they purchase the garments themselves. 

Cross your fingers and buy a lottery ticket 

Lotteries are a big deal in Spain: the Christmas lottery, initiated in 1812, is one of the largest in the world. Each year on 6th January, Spaniards across the country also take a gamble on ‘El Sorteo del Niño’ (the Lottery of the Child), which coincides with Three Kings Day (Epiphany), and which is the second biggest in Spain after the Christmas draw. Millions of people buy a ticket in the New Year and eagerly await the results, with top prizes reaching €2,000,000 euros. The origins of the lottery are disputed, though many believe it dates to 1868, and it has been suggested that the name ‘El Niño’ refers to the baby Jesus, whose visit by the Three Kings is celebrated on 6th January. Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that this beloved New Years tradition is a lot of fun, and visitors to the country in early January are highly recommended to join in the entertainment. 


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