When our family took a trip to Madrid last month, we stayed near Puerta de Sol. It is the central square for gatherings, protests, walking tours, and the symbolic center of Spain. Puerta de Sol is lined with the historic Old Post Office and clock, that is now used as a government building. It is a fitting location to serve as the equivalent of New York's Times Square on New Year's Eve (or Nocheviejo in Spain, meaning "old night."). On this night, the square is still filled with Christmas lights, the large metal Christmas Tree and, along with the streets extending from the square, can accommodate thousands of people.
Having just been there allowed us a familiarity as we stayed up to watch the year end on Spanish television. We weren't quite sure of the identities of the 5 Spanish personalities (4 women and one man) that hosted the New Year's show, but they were very flamboyant and dressed in sequins and jewelry. One of the funniest things to us was the advertising for the show. Rather than commercials, the stars would take a moment to talk about a product and then use the product on television. For instance, they all opened glass bottles of coke and talked about how good it was as they drank them on camera.
As in the United States, there is a commercial lead-up to holidays in the stores. This is also true in Spain, but since holidays are celebrated differently, watching the stores can be an effective way to learn some of these differences. As Nocheviejo approached we began to see cans of grapes (or "uvas") in all the display windows, both in the grocery stores and in shopping center displays. These cans were very particular. Each can held eight peeled and seeded grapes (in Spain, all grapes bought in the market have seeds in them).
Twelve seconds before midnight, a twelve second count-down clock appears on the TV. As the countdown begins, everyone puts one grape in their mouth for every second. If you get all grapes in on each second and swallow them, you will have good luck in the new year. You can also make a wish for each grape, but it's best to write them down in advance because the countdown goes faster than expected when you're concentrating on getting all the grapes in on time. In fact, after about one grape, my wishes were abandoned in the hopes of succeeding in obtaining some general good luck. And, I was grateful for how fast it went when I saw my daughter's wishes included getting a Cheetah, owning a farm, and having her best friend come live with us in Spain. We did our countdown a little earlier than midnight because of our daughter, but since we had an extra can, our son, Carson, did a second at midnight for good measure (it was probably also because he was hungry).
Not only is this ritual tasty and family friendly, but it gave us something to talk to people about in the next week around town. Locals asked us if we ate our uvas, and we responded in kind. I don't think we could have a luckier year than this one has been, but if the grapes mean anything, we're looking forward to more good fortune in 2018.
Sally and her family have moved to Spain for a year starting July 2017. They are living in a little town called Puzol, which is about 12km north of Valencia. Her kids, Carson and Celia, are attending the American School of Valencia, an International School located in Puzol. The goal for the whole family is to experience another way of life, and learn Spanish. This blog tracks their travels and experiences.