Eating grapes on new years: Twelve Grapes — Gastro Obscura

The Eleven Grapes — A Mexican Tradition to Ensure a Happy New Year!

December 31, 2018


Feliz Ano Nuevo!

Las Doce Uvas de la Suerte tradition involves eating a grape and making a wish with each strike of the clock at midnight on December 31st. According to tradition, each grape represents a month in the New Year.

Though celebrated much like it is in other parts of the world – with dinners, parties, midnight toasts, and fireworks – New Year’s Eve in Mexico is full of delightful customs that focus on transitioning from the old to the new.

In the Mexican culture, so full of traditions, year-end rituals are believed to help you find love, money, good luck and good fortune in the coming year. Though they may seem odd to visitors, taking part in these charming customs will make welcoming 2019 in Puerto Vallarta even more festive.

Here are a few of our favorite Mexican New Year’s Eve Traditions:

  • Write your wishes for the upcoming year on pieces of paper and put them in a safe place. Burn the paper when each wish comes true.
  • Clean the house; take a bath, or wash the pets and cars on New Year’s Eve for renewal. Sweep and mop from the inside outwards. Mop the house with cinnamon water. Heat the water with cinnamon sticks as if you were making tea. Burn incense before midnight.
    • Display a rimmed tray with a candle at the center, and ask family and friends to deposit change in the tray, afterward filling it with water for good luck.
    • Place a few candles on a white plate surrounded by lentils, beans, rice, corn, flour, and a cinnamon stick to spice things up. Allow candles to burn all night until melted; then peel the waxy food mixture off of the plate and bury it for abundance and for food to always be on your table.
    • Eat a tablespoon of cooked lentils, and give a handful of raw lentils to friends and family members for good fortune.
    • On New Year’s Eve, women who want love and passion in the next year wear red underwear; for happiness and prosperity, yellow underwear; for health and well-being, green; for true love and friendship, pink underwear; for hope and peace, white.
    • As the New Year’s Eve midnight countdown begins, eat 12 grapes making a wish for each strike of the clock. Each grape represents a month in the New Year; a sweet grape means it will be a good month; a sour grape, a bad month.
    • At midnight on New Year’s Eve, open the door and symbolically sweep out ‘the old.’ At midnight, toss 12 coins outside and sweep them into the house for prosperity.
    • On New Year’s Eve at midnight, throw a bucket of water out the window for renewal.
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Why New Year’s in Spain Starts With Eating 12 Grapes

When Javier Vallès Osborne was a boy in Barcelona, he struggled to cram, chew, and swallow 12 grapes, one every two seconds, at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

“It was una p—a,” says Vallès, speaking in Spanish and using a word best left unprinted, which essentially means it was effing hard. “The grapes were super big and with seeds. I didn’t want to eat the seeds, but it had to be the whole thing.”

Vallès was simply following in the tradition, celebrated across Spain, of eating one grape with each chime of the clock tower of the Royal Post Office in Plaza del Sol, a central square of Madrid. Much like Americans might watch the ball drop at midnight in Times Square, Spaniards tune to the country’s capital for the 12 chimes of the clock.

Tradition has it that each chime represents a month of the year, and that consuming all 12 grapes at each chime of the clock on nochevieja — which means the night of the old, outgoing year — will bring good luck in the year to come.

“You have to swallow everything,” Vallès says. “If you end up with grapes left in your mouth, you will have bad luck.”

Eventually, Vallès says his mother, who hails from a wine producing family in southern Spain, relented, allowing the kids to take the seeds out from the grapes beforehand. Not long after that, Vallès said his brother started peeling the grapes in preparation for the first stroke of midnight.

Truth be told, it wasn’t until I found myself trying to jam 12 hefty, seed-packed grapes into my mouth on a New Year’s Eve in the mountains outside of Barcelona a few years ago that I understood why anyone would ever want to peel a grape.

Spain’s year-end grape of choice is the green Aledo variety that’s harvested in November and December. While it may resemble the seedless green grape with tissue-thin skin that you find in all US supermarkets, it is anything but. Although not as thick as the peel on the purple grapes you find in Spain — it’s covered in paper while on the vine to slow maturation, a process that gives it a sweeter taste and a slightly thinner skin — the Aledo is still a mouthful.

Gloria Balil, another Barcelona native, says that it’s a matter of personal preference for people to peel their grapes.

“I personally don’t think it’s necessary, but I respect everyone’s taste,” she says diplomatically. Balil says she doesn’t suppose a person’s decision to peel a grape or not would affect their luck for the coming year, but rather it’s a question of comfort.

Nowadays, you can actually find tiny tins of 12 seeded and peeled grapes sold at the grocery store in Spain in the late days of December. That, Balil opines, is going a bit far.

“Of course we Spaniards are how we are and if we see that someone says, ‘No I want them peeled, I want them without seeds,’ we think they are being fussy,’” says Balil.

Photo: pmartinasi/Shutterstock

But where did this idea of eating grapes come from in the first place?

Common lore was that just over a hundred years ago, in 1909, grape growers in the Alicante region of Spain had a bumper crop and invented the concept of December 31 grape eating to encourage sales.

A few years back, the Spanish media started debunking that theory — or at least part of it. In 2012, Spain’s national paper,ABC, found written accounts of New Year’s grape eating in the late 1800s, and even pointed to a 1906 article in ABC itself about Madrid residents eating the grapes at the twelve strokes of midnight.

“According to the adherents of the system, eating them at that precise moment augurs the possession of money,” the 1906 article reads.

They were apparently copying the Spanish upper class trend of eating grapes and having Champagne at midnight, a tradition they learned from the French. The part that was new was trying to eat them timed to the tolls of the clocktower.

Where the Alicante growers come in, apparently, is in successfully bringing this New Year’s custom to a broader audience. And success they had. Today, according to ABC, up to two million kilos (4.4 million pounds) of grapes are eaten every year in Spain on December 31.

It just isn’t New Year’s in Spain without the grape munching. “It’s inconceivable not to do this tradition at New Year’s,” Vallès says.

He notes that it is such an integral part of ringing in the coming year that even in the regions that seek more independence from Spain, like Catalonia and the Basque Country, everyone still eats the grapes at midnight on December 31. They may time their grape eating to a different clock in a local town being aired on a channel in the Catalan or Basque languages — rather than watching the clock tower in Madrid on the main broadcaster — but they are still going to eat those grapes.

Vallès says there is even an option for those who are diabetic, as his father was. He used to eat twelve olives at midnight, so he wouldn’t have to worry about a dozen bites of sugary fruit in rapid succession.

Either way, it’s only once the grapes are eaten that everyone grabs their glasses of Champagne to ring in the New Year.

“For us, when you have the last grape, you drink Champagne and toast one another and it concretely begins the process of celebrating the new year, giving everyone kisses, calling grandma, and so on,” he says.

Vallès does remember, though, the time a few years back when the announcer forgot to tell folks at home that the chiming had begun. Even worse, says Vallès, was the year they rang the bells too fast.

“It was a national drama. No one could eat the grapes at each chime” Vallès says, laughing.

And Vallès likes to laugh. As he sees it, frantically trying to eat twelve large, seed-packed grapes as the bells are relentlessly chiming, one by one, is “a fun kind of stress.”

“As you are doing this, you are all laughing, ‘Oh yes. Oh no!’ Then you end up with everyone laughing to see who missed it and joking about who will have bad luck,” he says.

“That way,” says Vallès, “you start the year laughing.”

More like this

Good and bad signs for the New Year in Russia and the world

Folk New Year signs are a separate type of creativity. Some of these superstitions are funny, others seem absurd, but they are all related to luck, health and money — that is, things that people think about all the time.

Carolina Plavina



New Year

How to behave


Signs and superstitions originated in pagan times. Many of them have good reasons, and if you dig deep into history, you can understand why it is necessary or not to do in the New Year e.

Contents of the article

Russian good and bad omens for the New Year

Drink champagne cork. This bottle must be placed in a secluded place, it can only be thrown on the growing moon. The sign says: if you managed to do this, then the wish will come true.

Clean your home before the holiday

Review things, clothes, toys, if you do not use them, give them to those in need. Get rid of broken items and put things in order. The New Year should come to a clean house.

Set the table correctly

Place a coin under each plate — this is a good sign that helps to attract good luck and wealth. It is also advisable to put dishes with grain and coins in the middle of the table — then hunger and poverty will bypass your house.

Do not use «chipped» dishes

Do not put cracked or chipped dishes on the New Year’s table. These defects, according to superstition, lead to quarrels and a split in the house, therefore, even at ordinary times, it is a bad omen to use them, and even more so on a holiday.

Do not sweep the floor immediately after the guests leave

It is also a bad omen to sweep people out of the house. We must leave everything as it is, and cleaning can be started only after the sun has risen. Otherwise, you can say goodbye to these people.

New Year’s good and bad omens in the world

Let good luck in

In China, it is believed that if a door accidentally opens with a draft on New Year’s Eve, rejoice, money and good luck will fly in. But if a window or a window opens by itself — this is a health problem, a parting.

Eat grapes

This sign associated with grapes originated in Spain. It is believed that if you eat 12 grapes (one for each month of the year) before 12:01, they will bring good luck in the coming year.

Don’t borrow money

Borrowing money from someone before the New Year is a bad omen for the coming months. Try to get rid of your debts before 12 am on December 31, otherwise financial luck will turn away from you.

Grab an empty suitcase

If you’ve been missing traveling the last couple of years, then you might want to try this Colombian New Year’s superstition. Why? It is believed that if you carry an empty suitcase with you (even if it’s just a run around the block and back), then the year will be filled with adventure and travel. Let’s hope it comes true in the new year.

Put cash in your wallet

You may already be participating in this superstition without even knowing it. It says that if you have money in your wallet before midnight, then the year will bring money. By the way, if you don’t want to burn out, then we will tell you what is the best way to keep your savings.

Hold back your tears

It is believed that crying for any reason (even if it is good) in the New Year is a bad omen. Moreover, some say that this may lead to a sad year.

Avoid eating chicken

Attention, chicken lovers, you should stop eating this food. This bird on the table can be a bad omen. It is believed in Asia that since a chicken has wings, your luck will fly away if you eat it on New Year’s Eve. And if you do not know what to put on the table, then read our article.

New underwear

This funny superstition comes from Latin America and is connected with the search for love. It is believed that if you put on red shorts for the New Year, then this is a good omen that will attract the attention of the opposite sex to you.

why give out debts and throw flowers into the sea

New Year is a special day for every person, many are waiting for a complete “renewal” of their lives, believing that the first of January will be a completely different life. In order for hopes and dreams to come true for sure, there are a number of customs and signs that will help fulfill all wishes on New Year’s Eve. Each country has its own bizarre traditions, sometimes they are so unusual that they amaze our imagination. Let’s see what signs of the New Year exist in the world, perhaps something worth taking note of.

Everyone wants a happy New Year


Let’s start the review with the most mysterious country in the world. New Year in Japan is called the «First month of the year». By this day, every Japanese should have all his affairs completed, his house cleaned, loans and debts repaid, and all disagreements resolved. To make the new year happy, in Japan they put buckwheat noodles on the festive table, which symbolizes longevity. At midnight, everyone freezes, listening to the 108 beats of Buddhist temple bells. These sounds, according to a sign, free the Japanese from the action of evil forces, because each person has exactly 108 temptations. The Japanese celebrate the New Year three days in a row, and the very first thing a Japanese should do in the coming year is visit a temple. The Japanese give children money in festive envelopes, teaching them to think about finances from childhood.

Mexico and Venezuela

Here is one very interesting sign — on New Year’s Eve you need to take a suitcase in your hand and walk around the house with it. Here they believe that this will provide travel around the world. And in order to make money, Mexicans and Venezuelans decorate their houses strictly in red, white and green colors.

With the help of signs, a person tunes in to the best


In Greece, the New Year is a time of gifts. Children put their shoes on for Saint Basil (that’s the Greek Santa Claus) and love the time when everyone gets a New Year’s cake. According to the custom, the cake is baked with a golden coin inside — whoever gets it will be the lucky one all year. While making a wish, the Greeks advise you to look at the bubbles in your glass. If there are a lot of them, but significant events, both good and bad, will take place all year in life, and if there are few bubbles and they calmly rise upwards in a chain, then the year will be joyful and health will be in order. If chains of bubbles begin to connect with each other, then be careful, there may be problems with money or health.


It is customary to sew dolls that represent past events of the year. Puppets are made from material, straw, old clothes, paper, firecrackers are placed in some puppets. They are taken out on the face, and at midnight the dolls are burned. This is how we say goodbye to the past. + Italy + Italians firmly believe that underwear in the New Year should be exclusively red. Their signature dish on New Year’s Eve is lentil soup. Italians also love pork and seafood on the New Year’s table.

Each nation has its own traditions and signs


Here the New Year is strictly a family holiday, but by midnight the Spaniards gather on the main square of the city and carry grapes with them. Listening to the beat of the clock, you need to stand on your left foot, tighten your right foot, and eat every grape under every beat of the clock. The right foot is raised in order to step on it after midnight already in the new year. Even if such a service: the sale of grapes without skins and seeds especially for New Year’s Eve.


Here it is customary to celebrate the holiday in all white, which, according to tradition, will provide peace and happiness. The Brazilians revere the tradition of offering a sacrifice to the goddess of the sea. The day before the New Year, on the beaches you can see how people throw white flowers into the water and send boats with gifts to the sea. Also, Brazilians dance a lot and often spend the New Year on the beach, and fireworks are launched here.

Traditions are also highly respected in Russia — the Christmas tree, the president’s speech, making a wish to the sound of the clock, certain colors in clothes, dishes that can please the animal of the next year.


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