New Year's Eve in Spain

In Spain, as the clock counts down on New Year's Eve, people stuff 12 of which object into their mouths for good luck?

And the answer: grapes.

Xarel lo grapes used to make Spanish Cava. Photo courtesy: batega.

Eating 12 grapes at midnight, one for each stroke of the clock, is a tradition in Spain. Known as "the 12 lucky grapes," the practice is thought to bring good luck for the new year.

While in many countries the tolling of midnight's bells brings affectionate celebrations of the new year, Spain practices several, well, specific traditions. The origins of the 12 lucky grapes date back about a century to a surplus year for grape production in Spain. It's said that grape farmers in the early 1900s marketed their grapes for the holiday in an attempt to sell the whole batch. Some say that the tradition began even further back, when Madrid elites in the 1880s looked to replicate the French custom of grapes and champagne on New Year's Eve.

Regardless of its origins, eating a grape as each bell tolls is not as easy a task as one might assume. The grapes are nearly always seeded, yet there is hardly time for more than one chomp before each stroke of the clock. Grape experts and locals report that the only surefire way to get down each grape before the last stroke of midnight is a firm bite and swallow technique – seeds and all.

As if eating 12 midnight grapes wasn't enough, Spaniards practice several other interesting New Year's Eve traditions, including wearing the good luck charm of ropa interior – AKA red undergarment. It's believed that wearing red underthings on New Year's Eve will increase your chances of finding love in the new year. Supposedly, it summons the goodwill of the god of love and desire, Cupid.

Finally, before the ringing of the bell summons the New Year's toast, make sure to fill your glass of champagne and drop into it a gold ring (just make sure not to swallow it). This Spanish tradition brings in good fortune (and real fortune – cha-ching!) in the new year.

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