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

12 grapes Spain new yearsThe 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.

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