We all have our New Year’s Eve traditions – eating food that represents prosperity for the coming year or drinking as many glasses of Champagne possible into the wee hours of the morning – but one specific tradition that struck us was an act that originated in Spain that’s still practiced today. Eating 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight is celebrated by citizens from Barcelona to Bilbao to Cadiz, following the belief that this is supposed to bring good luck in the New Year.
Numerology does play a role. Each grape represents good luck in each month ahead but all the fruit must go down during the time it takes the clock to chime 12 times – so you only have 12 seconds.
But, why grapes? There are a few stories that leave the origin of the tradition open to debate. One lineage states that grape growers in the late 1800s wanted to sell large quantities when they had huge crops.
Another story says, (and newspaper articles give evidence) that the wealthy in Madrid wanted to copy the French by eating grapes and drinking sparkling wine on the last day of the year. Soon after, the tradition was adopted by visitors to Puerta del Sol who went to see the bells chime at midnight and ate the grapes in a mocking manner of the rich. Now, the tradition is practiced in Mexico and some Latin American countries.
Typically, grapes sold in Spain as the 12 lucky grapes are a traditional Spanish variety called Aledo which is harvested from Spain’s Mediterranean Coast. The white-green grapes are wrapped in paper bags during June and July while they ripen which preserves flavor, aroma and slows maturation. It also renders a thin peel because the fruit doesn’t have to ward off harsh weather. Thus, the grapes are really sweet and fresh – perfect to quickly eat.
A few tips to ensure good luck and smoothly beat the clock – eat methodically because this tradition involves competitive eating. Don’t start before midnight and don’t eat all the grapes at once by jamming them all in your mouth because both these reasons are sure to usher in bad luck since it’s technically cheating. And, if your first grape happens to be sweet, welcome January with optimism because it’s supposed to guarantee good luck, while a sour one suggests bad vibes.
And, if you do finish in time, this success means wishes will be granted (and witchcraft warded off). But of course, good luck can happen by chance of more sentimental reasons in the form of happiness and peace.
Now, make sure you’re checklist is complete with small, seedless grapes, be near a chiming clock and pray for a sweet first bite. It’d also be a good idea to start exercising your mouth now; we know you’ll have plenty of opportunities with holiday eating, so start with 12 candies, cookies or even just grapes to really get in the swing of things.