Tradiciones for the New Year!

By Anne Silva

Ready for New Year’s Eve? Are you making fabulous, sparkly plans that require actual grownup shoes and maybe even a babysitter? Or will you be joining me in puttering around the house and at midnight, waking up your sweetie who fell asleep on the sofa an hour ago?

If your New Year’s Eve traditions are lackluster, or you just want to start of 2015 with a little more pizzazz, why not throw some Latin traditions into the festivities as well?

The most famous and widespread tradition originated in Spain in the 1800s. On each of the twelve chimes of the clock at midnight, you have to eat one grape … and some add on a thirteenth for extra luck. This is harder than it sounds! Also, a note to novices: Do not try to cram all twelve grapes in your mouth at once. Take it from me, it’s not pretty, it’s a choking hazard, and some even believe that it will bring you bad luck. I don’t know about that last part, but it’s true that nobody will want to participate in that other New Year’s tradition of a midnight kiss with you when you look like an overachieving squirrel with the mumps.

In Puerto Rico and some other Caribbean countries, it’s common to throw a bucket of water out the door or window, to symbolize a “clean start” to the new year, or tossing out all the old or bad luck. Extra points if you don’t hit your neighbors standing on the apartment balcony below yours.

In Chile and Brazil, lentils are eaten on New Year’s for good luck and prosperity. And in my husband’s family, you throw them on the roof! (I assume the not-cooked variety.) And in much of Latin America and many parts of the United States, pork is also eaten on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, also to bring luck or wealth.

And don’t forget to choose your undies wisely! Different colors symbolize different things for the coming year—wearing red underwear is the most popular form of this tradition, and brings luck and love. But some countries believe you should wear them inside-out. Other countries prefer yellow… and I have no idea what to suggest if you have a multicultural household. Prints? Red and yellow stripes? (Note: this tradition might also not be compatible with the tradition of wearing all white…)

And finally, the easiest tradition of all: bring out the frying pans! At midnight, grab your wooden spoons and your pots and pans, and scare all the evil spirits away from your house. This tradition is practiced in Colombia and many parts of Latin America, but also New Zealand and other countries around the world. Conveniently, this tradition will also serve the purpose of waking up the aforementioned sweetheart who didn’t quite make it to midnight.

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

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