Traditions in Spain

Every New Year’s Eve, time stands still in the homes of thousands and thousands of Spanish and Latin American families. With great expectation, they wait for the sound of the bells that mark the birth of a new year and a new life full of hope. The desired moment arrives, but before they can toast and embrace each other, they must eat the twelve «lucky» grapes. In the Spanish Club we will show you the importance of the twelve grapes tradition in Spain.

Where does this curious tradition that is celebrated every year in places like Madrid’s Puerta del Sol come from? What do the grapes symbolise? There are several explanations for the origin of this tradition in Spain.

Popular belief states that the twelve «lucky» grapes began to be eaten in Spain on New Year’s Eve 1909. Alicante produced a lot of grapes that year and led them to create Christmas sales campaigns with the promise of bringing good luck. The white grape variety Aledo became synonymous with New Year’s Eve and was popularly sold in packs of twelve ready to eat on the last day of the year.

However, there are records of this custom being practised previously, so it is very likely that the 1909 surplus only served to extend the tradition, not to create it.

This practice began in the 1880s and appeared in Madrid as a protest. At that time, the upper class copied the French custom of holding private parties at Christmas, at which champagne was drunk and grapes were used as an accompaniment. At the same time, the city council banned the street parties that were normally held on Twelfth Night.

The chulapos, due to this prohibition, decided to take advantage of the fact that it was still allowed to gather in the Puerta del Sol to listen to the chimes of the clock on New Year’s Eve and began to eat grapes as a mockery of the aristocratic custom and as a sign of protest against the city council’s restrictions. Eventually, the consumption of the twelve grapes became normalised and spread to the rest of the country over time.

Why grapes?

Traditionally, the grape is a fruit that is often associated with positive symbols such as brotherhood, togetherness, joy and pleasure or spirituality. Nowadays, the tradition is to eat twelve grapes to symbolise the twelve months of the year. Each grape eaten after the stroke of midnight will signify good luck for the twelve months of the year.