Twelve Grapes of Luck – Start the New Year with a Tradition from Spain

Good Grapes

I got an email from a friend wishing me “good grapes”.  She and I had spent New Years together once and were each served a wide-rimmed glass of champagne with twelve grapes floating in it.  “It’s a tradition from Spain,” they told us. “Think of a wish for each grape. Then eat them as the clock strikes midnight.”

I felt dubious, but game.  Was it really a tradition from Spain? After all, we were in an Irish Pub.   However, making wishes is a lot more fun than making resolutions, so we scratched twelve wishes down on a bar napkin. Outlandish as they were (become wealthy, be able to eat without getting fat, drink without getting hung-over, meet subjuncitve man) they weren’t any more unrealistic than my annual promises to lose weight and save money.

Twelve Grapes / Doce Uvas for Good Luck in the New Year

Turns out that the guys at the Irish Pub knew what they were talking about.  Sort of.  The Twelve Grapes of Luck is a tradition that dates back to the turn of the century when some vine growers in the Alicante region of Spain came up with it as a way to market their product.  The tradition spread throughout Spain and later to places of Spanish influence (Latin America, the Philippines, etc.)

Twelve Lucky Grapes! Photo by Matt Westgate.

Twelve Lucky Grapes! Photo by Matt Westgate.

A grape is eaten with each strike of the clock as it reaches midnight.  Not just any clock – the Twelve Grapes tradition is specifically associated with the Puerta del Sol clock tower in Madrid.  Spaniards watch the Puerta del Sol clock on television on New Year’s Eve in the same way that Americans watch the ball dropping in Time Square. This facilitates everyone in the country popping their twelve grapes at the same time. However, if you’re not in Spain, the nearest clock chiming midnight will do.

And if done correctly, the twelve grapes are said to ward off evil and bring you a year of prosperity.  Who doesn’t want that?  I’ve also read that you should stand on one foot (the right one) as you eat your twelve grapes.  Whatever works.

Puerta del Sol, Madrid, Spain. Photo by Tomas Fano.

How To Celebrate Año Nuevo Like a Spaniard:

  • Your twelve grapes should be green.  For obvious reasons, it’s also best if they’re seedless. You don’t want to start the new year by choking.
  • The grapes do not need to be served in champagne – though I certainly didn’t mind.
  • Try to eat one grape with each chime of the clock. Of course, if there’s no striking clock within earshot, this will be challenging.  Try to eat them, one at a time, just before midnight.  And try to have the last one in your mouth as the year turns over.

There you have it – a year of prosperity! (And if you are resolving to eat healthier, you’ve already started the new year with a serving of fruit!)

Happy New Year! Photo by Alex Guerrero.

Feliz Año Nuevo!

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Jennifer Choban

Editor & Author at Gear Up & Play
Seasoned traveler, avid reader, over-eater, clumsy but determined hiker, nascent piano player and wannabe Spanish-speaker.
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One thought on “Twelve Grapes of Luck – Start the New Year with a Tradition from Spain

  1. Judy

    Wow, this is so great! A fun and meaningful way to enjoy the New Year – hopeful wishes, rather than our usual punishing and guilt-ridden resolutions. I am definitely going to adopt this as next New Year’s activity. All Good! Thanks!!

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