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New Year’s Eve and The 12 Grapes: A Spanish Tradition Brought to Mexico

 How to get lucky on New Year’s Eve?  It all starts with the grapes.

by Jack E. George

The tradition originated in Spain and has now been adopted by Mexico and many Latin American countries for their New Year’s Eve celebrations. It sounds simple: Eat 12 grapes in 12 seconds. The timing is crucial and needs to coincide with the final 12 seconds of the year — in Madrid, Spain, it occurs in conjunction with the ‘blong’ of the clock on the city’s Puerta del Sol as it strikes the final notes of the year. It is important to be near a clock tower or some other chiming device that will offer you the precise time you need in order to ‘count down’, and properly follow the requirements of this particular tradition.

 

The Luck of the 12 Grapes on New Year's Eve

 

The Twelve Grapes of Luck, also known as ‘las doce uvas de la suerte’, dates back to the late 1800’s. However, it became more prevalent in 1895 when the grape growers had a huge crop of grapes harvested in the Alicante area of Spain. The growers in the area proposed the promotion of “The 12 Grapes” in order to help sell the large quantity of grapes. They promoted the New Year’s idea and the tradition has been carried on through the years.  In Baja California‘s wine country in the Valle de Guadalupe, grapes are abundant and this tradition is flourishing.

In some parts of the world,  you can actually purchase a tin containing the needed 12 grapes.  But, as is more typical in Mexico, you can also purchase regular grapes in advance, remove the seeds, peel them, or do whatever you choose in order to prepare them — and you — for what needs to happen next:  the quick chewing and downing of the ‘luck grapes’ before the chimes stop chiming and the New Year begins.

The New Year's Eve tradition of eating 12 grapes in 12 second is not as easy as it sounds!

What is the significance of following this tradition? Well, it is said that if you eat the 12 grapes within the 12 seconds before the New Year, each one on the strike of the clock, that this will bring you good luck throughout the New Year. Other people make wishes and believe that following the tradition will grant them their wishes. Some people actually believe that the successful eating of the grapes will ward off witchcraft.  However, it is likely that the 12 grapes simply signify the 12 months of the year, and the desire for luck in each and every one of them.

You might be puzzled when you visit the produce section in your super market as to the volumes of grapes, typically sitting in large containers, at this time of year. You might be more puzzled when you see the people grabbing the grapes and loading them into bags, faster than you have ever seen them grabbed before. But, now you know it is not due to the buyer’s love of grapes; it is due to a tradition.

Instructions: On New Years’ Eve, prepare your grapes and be near the sound of a clock.   As the bells chime, 12 beats to midnight, you begin.   If your first grape is a sweet one, it is believed it means that month will be a good one; a sour grape indicates it will be a bad month. Some people believe that eating the grapes will bring them happiness, peace, or good health throughout the year. Others, choosing to make wishes, ask for love, good health, peace, a new red Corvette, and other wishes that will make the New Year special.  DO NOT jam the grapes in your mouth all at once…very unlucky!

Warning: This tradition might cause difficulties for people who suffer from anxiety or worry about being successful with eating the grapes. This adds a great deal of pressure: eating one grape per second, swallowing, putting another grape in the mouth, while also asking a wish to be granted. After all, what can happen to the anxious person, in the New Year, if all 12 grapes have not been consumed within the allotted 12 seconds? And, what happens if each of the 12 grapes is sour?

One suggestion, in order to be successful with this tradition: choose small seedless grapes. They are not only easier to chew but you can also swallow them more quickly. Good luck!

There are many restaurants (such as La Taberna Espanola in Tijuana) that celebrate New Year’s Eve in Baja.  Visit Baja.com to find out more!

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants, hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

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About Jack E. George

Jack E. George is a Baja writer as well as the author of A Broken Charity and The Autism Handbook (published in English, Spanish, and Chinese).

Comments

  1. Doc Dougherty says:

    I’ll stick with the Baja tradition of 12 sips of grape juice. Gracias y SALUD a Baja.com

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