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The story behind Madrid’s twelve grapes tradition

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If you’ve ever spent your New Year’s Eve in Spain, I guess you’ve already heard about the huge importance of the 12 grapes tradition. Yes, it’s a big thing (apparently) and yes everyone takes it seriously.

If you still have no idea what I am talking about, well, do not worry since I found myself ignorant too concerning this tradition, just a few days ago!

The 12 grapes tradition.

Years now, the Spaniards tend to start their New Year by swallowing 12 grapes in one minute when the clock strikes 12! Rare is the Spaniard who will risk poisoning their fate for the coming year by skipping the grapes, one for each stroke of midnight. By rushing to eat all of the 12 grapes in a minute, they start the New Year with a good dose of excitement and high adrenaline. Each one of the grapes is the equivalent of each month- if you manage to eat them all on time, then you’ll definitely have a happy New Year! If not, you’ll still make a big laugh out of it, trying to swallow the grapes without choking.

According to tradition, it is believed that whoever eats their 12 grapes as the bells chime (one for each of the twelve chimes) will have a lucky and prosperous year. A quick word of advice: Although it may seem an easy task – after all it is only twelve grapes – getting them all in your mouth before the bells stop chiming is actually quite hard!

It’s true that the Spanish people get really passionate and competitive during this tradition; first time I experienced it (a few days ago) it took me a while to understand why they were looking so much forward to this tradition. Eventually I realised that it’s a part of their culture and that of course they cannot welcome the New Year without eating those grapes. It’s such a big matter to them that even if you turn on your TV at midnight you’ll see people live-streaming from a variety of neighbourhoods while counting out loud along with the chimes and eating those grapes all together.

Once you indulge you get the feeling. You see the excitement in their faces and you start the New Year with a big smile on your face! If you ever plan on spending the NYE somewhere around Spain, then do not miss the chance to participate in this bizarre but lovely Spanish Tradition.

Nochevieja, the twelve grapes tradition on the 31st of December
Nochevieja, the twelve grapes tradition on the 31st of December
28013 Madrid, Spain

While in Madrid, you may go to the Plaza del Sol to celebrate along with the masses. Thousands of people meet at the Puerta del Sol to see in the New Year, singing, dancing and, of course, stuffing their 12 grapes in their mouths whilst downing their glasses of bubbly! For those not spending the NYE in Madrid, you’ll find that most towns and cities have similar celebrations in their main squares.

El barrio del Sol- Plaza del Sol
El barrio del Sol- Plaza del Sol
Sol, Madrid, Spain
Puerta del Sol
Puerta del Sol
Puerta del Sol, 28013 Madrid, Spain

...and a Happy New Year!


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The author

Chrisa Lepida

Chrisa Lepida

My name is Chrisa and I come from Greece. As nature lover, winter sports addict and Erasmus obsessed, I’m always writing about these topics.

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