The 12 Grapes and New Year’s Toast
For four millennia, people have celebrated the beginning of the New Year. Nowadays, most of these festivities take place on the night of December 31st and end on January 1st. While the celebrations include typical dishes, fireworks and making resolutions, on this occasion DINKtravelers takes you to Spain to learn about the origin of one of the most meaningful traditions of this holiday: the 12 grapes.
History of New Year’s Eve Celebration
It all began with the Roman emperor, Julius Caesar. He established January 1st as the first day of the year to worship Janus, the Roman god of beginnings who was commonly honored with sacrifices, gift exchanges, laurel leaves decorations and banquets in which they served abundant amounts of food and wine.
Despite the fact that during the Middle Ages the date was changed and adapted to other religious celebrations, in the sixteenth century Pope Gregory XII restored January 1st as the New Year. Since then, people established rituals that symbolize the renovation of cycles and that are meant to ensure a better New Year. In that sense, one of the traditions that became more popular was the midnight toast.
Tradition of the 12 Grapes
The vine, mother of the most exquisite wines, is at the same time the source of one of the most popular rites: the 12 grapes. The custom of eating them began in Spain in the early twentieth century when, after a wonderful harvest, vine growers gave away the surplus and insisted people ate them arguing that doing so would bring them good luck. Since then, the inhabitants of the peninsula prepare one grape per month and they eat them to guarantee prosperity –in Latin America people also make a wish when eating each grape.
The tradition became so popular that since 1962 it’s been televised and it’s been established that each grape has to be eaten to the chimes of the clock at midnight. In total, the rings last 36.60 seconds, quite a short time to chew and swallow a dozen grapes, so if this is your first time visiting Spain, you’ll discover that it’s quite fun to watch everyone around you eating them at a frantic rhythm! Our recommendation: for your experience to be more authentic, prepare your grapes and eat them together with thousands of people at the Puerta del Sol in Madrid, the most typical place to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
New Year’s Toast
But the 12 grapes are not the only ritual that guarantees good fortune. Actually, the most widely known tradition is that of simply raising a glass of champagne or cider and toasting in harmony for the life we receive with the arrival of the New Year.