Culture,  Living Abroad,  Preparing

Traditions: New Year’s Eve in Spain

Dear Lee,

Not only will you find some differences in the way Spaniards celebrate Christmas, but if you stick around for the end of the year, you’ll surely be surprised by some of the New Year’s Eve celebrations too. Here are a few things you simply must know for the big night!

Aside from toasting with cava, Spain’s version of champagne, the most widely-spread and important tradition revolves around the grapes! As the clock strikes midnight, everyone will eat one grape for every stroke of the clock and those who manage to eat all 12 grapes before the twelfth campañada (ding) are supposed to have good luck in the year to come. It might sound easy enough, but actually it’s a bit more difficult that you might imagine.

Don't forget to pick up your grapes for the big night!This is because, firstly, unlike in the United States, the majority of grapes here in Spain have seeds and if you’re not used to that it will likely gross you out or at least slow you down. For the sake of time, most Spaniards will just tell you that they just go ahead and eat those 12+ seeds. However, you might find that after five, you will have to throw in the towel because it is harder than it seems. If you want to avoid this altogether, you have two options.

1.) At this time of year you’ll find “12 grapes” especially packaged for this tradition and it’s relatively easy to find seedless one, too.

2.) You can personally open up and remove the seeds yourself before midnight.

Pro tip: It might also help you out to peel your grapes, as some Spaniards will do.

Keep in mind that, depending on who you are with, either of these may be ‘looked down on’ as cheating. However, by this point we are sure you’ve learned that sometimes you just need to choose your battles. If eating grapes, seeds and all, is not gonna work for you but you really want a shot at the good luck this tradition promises…well, you just go about it the way you need to!

champagne bottlesAdditionally, it’s important to keep in mind that New Year’s Eve is generally considered to be family time. That’s to say that most Spaniards will have a big meal at home, watch the countdown on TV, and carry out their 12-grapes tradition with family (before going out for the night around 1 or 2am, of course!). On the other hand, it is also common to eat out on New Year’s Eve night but there is something VERY important to know if you plan to do so yourself—

Almost all restaurants will limit their menu this night to ONE (or two) New Year’s Eve specials. It may sound lovely (and, sure, it’s usually delicious!) but this meal is then intended to become your plans for the night. Which is to say that it will typically not cost less than 40€/person (more in bigger city and for better restaurants) and will include a glass of cava at midnight (and we don’t recommend trying to get the servers to speed your meal up).

This may sound like a classy way to ring in the New Year and we believe that if you are interested, you can find options that fit your needs. However, it can also be a bit of a nightmare if you wait until the day of and realize that you might not have anywhere decent to eat dinner before 10:30/11pm. Save yourself the stress and plan ahead!

Of course, ringing in the new year in your city's main plaza is a popular option as well.In addition, you should know that going out on New Year’s Eve will be a bit expensive. Many clubs and popular places will have set prices upwards from about 50€. If you are lucky, these prices will include some or all your drinks for the night; however, it may just cover the bear minimum. And, like with dinner, consider booking your place ahead of time because otherwise you might find that the place you want to spend your evening is fully booked.

Finally, if you’re looking for a little extra luck with love in the new year, be sure to get yourself a pair of red undies! That’s right, Spaniards believe that wearing red undergarments on New Year’s Eve will help Cupid’s arrow find its way to you in the upcoming year. To our surprise, this tradition is taken rather seriously—the hosts of one of the Spanish TV channel’s countdowns literally hosted the show in their red undies last year!

Are you getting excited about spending New Year’s Eve here in Spain? Let us know which traditions you plan to take part in and have a safe celebration!



Traditions_ A Spanish New Year's EveP.S. As far as New Year’s Day goes…
Here in Spain you may also be warned to ensure you start off the year on the right foot—literally, you are apparently supposed to use your right foot for the first step out of your house on New Year’s Day (or for your first step after midnight or a number of other variations depending on who you talk to). This especially funny as it’s not a play on words in Spanish! Derecho (as in right foot) has nothing to do with correcto (as in the right way), so it doesn’t make as much sense in English as Spanish, but they say it anyway! Finally, you may want to get yourself some lentil soup as it is the traditional meal to eat on January 1st, ensuring you luck and prosperity for the year to come!

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