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New Year’s Traditions in Spain: 12 grapes in 12 seconds

photo by Anders Ljungberg

Editor’s Note: Thanks so much Josh for giving us the rundown on a fun and quirky holiday tradition. Although we have never been in Cataluna during New Years, we plan on participating with our grapes in hand at the strike of 12 and invite you to join us as well wherever you are in the world! The fun and quirky customs that people all over the world have to celebrate the New Year are just a few of the little pleasures that we enjoy in the holiday season. Some may know that in Italy on New Year’s Eve there must be a plate of lentils and in Portugal they often enjoy dishes with Salt Cod to bring good luck in the New Year. In Spain, the special tradition is to eat 12 grapes in 12 seconds as the clock bells mark the final twelve hours of the year!

All over Spain people celebrate the New Year with the family, glued to the T.V. waiting for a clock tower bell to ring 12 times. Everyone is closely following the instructions of the New Year’s program hosts as they discuss how they will eat their grapes. Some people spend a few extra minutes to remove the seeds or peel the sour skins off their good luck grapes. If you like, you can buy little tins with 12 seedless grapes peeled and glistening, ready to pack into your mouth at midnight. To me this is a really fun tradition as it’s always good for a few laughs and good natured bets as to who won’t be able to eat theirs in time.

So where does this tradition come from? The people who I asked here in Barcelona gave me variety of answers as to why grapes are eaten with the ringing of the 12 hours. Some said that it is something that has always been done here and that grapes just became the popular food used to celebrate the tradition of eating something (fruit, nuts etc.) as the clock strikes. As far as I can garner from the anecdotes and remembrances of friends here, the tradition is one that was invented by the grape producers! The story goes that some years ago (well, around 1909) there was a bumper crop of table grapes in Alicante ( a southern Spanish province on the Mediterranean) and the farmers were going to have tons of surplus grapes that would just rot unless they could somehow get people to buy them. Someone had the bright idea to promote the idea of eating 12 grapes to celebrate the 12 rings of the bell to ring in the New Year and the rest, is history.

  • RichardA

    What an interesting tradition, and one I have not heard of before. Thanks for the info and Happy New Year's!!

  • http://passionatefoodie.blogspot.com RichardA

    What an interesting tradition, and one I have not heard of before. Thanks for the info and Happy New Year’s!!

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  • Janelle

    I ate all my 12 grapes this year! The clock tower that is watched nationally is the one in Puerta del Sol, Madrid at the 0 kilometer mark. The plaza fills with thousands of people who toast the new year together with grapes and champagne and cava. This year they were announcing that the police handed out something like 17,000 plastic cups for people to pour their drinks into since they were not allowing glass bottles into the plaza. I also wanted to note that you have more than 12 seconds to eat the grapes. Its true that you eat one grape for each chime of the clock but acording to the TV news they slow down the chime to one every 3 seconds, which (Thankfully)gives you more time to eat all your grapes without choking. Also a question for Josh, in Barcelona do you also watch the clock in Madrid? Or is there a Catalonian clock that is preferred?

  • http://www.tapastalk.com Janelle

    I ate all my 12 grapes this year!
    The clock tower that is watched nationally is the one in Puerta del Sol, Madrid at the 0 kilometer mark. The plaza fills with thousands of people who toast the new year together with grapes and champagne and cava. This year they were announcing that the police handed out something like 17,000 plastic cups for people to pour their drinks into since they were not allowing glass bottles into the plaza.
    I also wanted to note that you have more than 12 seconds to eat the grapes. Its true that you eat one grape for each chime of the clock but acording to the TV news they slow down the chime to one every 3 seconds, which (Thankfully)gives you more time to eat all your grapes without choking.
    Also a question for Josh, in Barcelona do you also watch the clock in Madrid? Or is there a Catalonian clock that is preferred?

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  • mel

    awsome stuff on the new years stuff thank fo sharing

  • mel

    cooooooooooooooool

  • kelly

    wow that is so cool. i want to go to barcelona and try the real deal

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  • alex

    Very interesting and informative. I've been eating the grapes for over 20 years, and I never knew why. Thank you.

  • lovepreet

    this is so cool.I wish i could go to spain to see how it is like on new years. it looks such a nice place to go on new yearsi thing by reading this aretical

  • casey wise

    i ate all my 12 grapes in 1 second no stress required too fast for all of you thankyou bye bye i love natasha selleck

  • jayleenc

    Th is doesnt really provide as much information as it could but it was still good.

  • http://www.sloppysmooch.com isus69

    I’m a spaniard! Did this every year! Never knew why. I did get several different reasons why.

    VIVA ESPANA!

  • http://mayavps.com Omar

    This is not only in Spain, but in other Spanish-speaking countries (Latin America).

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