When the clock strikes 5PM at my house on New Year’s Eve, we are in full party mode ringing in the new year. There’s cheering, toasting, kissing and grapes. Yep you read right, grapes are a big part of our NYE celebration. But I’ll get to that in a minute.
We choose to celebrate the new year at 5PM because that’s when it turns midnight in Spain, the country where my husband grew up. A few years back when we were trying to figure out how to mark the new year with a baby and toddler, we knew that staying up until midnight was not an option. Heck, mama can barely make it until 10PM on a regular night. But we wanted to do something since out of all of the holidays, New Year’s Eve is my husband’s favorite because of Spain’s unique traditions.
In Spain, it’s the norm to have a late dinner, by late I mean starting at 10PM with your family. It’s a delicious meal with several courses. After dinner, families gather to watch the bell tower countdown on TV. Once the clock strikes midnight, you set out to eat 12 grapes. Every time the bell sounds you eat a grape, there are 12 bell sounds in all. If you finish the 12 grapes within that time, you are supposed to have good luck for the new year.
I have to say, I’ve been doing the grapes for probably 10 plus years and it’s really hard to accomplish. But it’s so fun and people have a blast trying to make it happen. While we think it’s a fun and different way to mark the new year, it’s a serious cultural tradition to Spaniards like my husband. He can’t not do grapes on NYE! After the grapes are eaten and the new year is here, that’s when the parties start. Spaniards leave their family gatherings to meet up with friends at bars and restaurants. The festivities continue until the sun comes up and then you go and eat churros and chocolate before heading to bed.
We knew it was impossible to replicate everything he grew up with, but we wanted to try. That’s when our Spanish New Year’s Eve party was started. We get dressed up, make traditional Spanish foods, celebrate the new year early and still get the kids to bed at a decent hour. The kids love it, my son recently asked when we get to play the grape game!
One of the coolest things we are able to do is stream Spain’s countdown live on our TV. It adds to the excitement for everyone, but especially my husband. We watch the same bell tower he grew up with, popping grapes in our mouth trying to secure our luck for the new year.
And while this idea started to accommodate the kids, even when they get bigger, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to celebrating at midnight – but I’m always up for churros and chocolate in the morning!