Eating 12 grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve is the traditional way to welcome the New Year in Spain. The grapes are considered lucky las doce uvas de la suerte (“the 12 lucky grapes”). They have to be eaten one at a time with each of the twelve chimes of midnight.
Spaniards listen to the bells on the clock tower of the 18th-century Real Casa de Correos in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol. UK New Years Eve celebrations centre around the bells of Big Ben above the Houses of Parliament in London.
Each grape represents one of the twelve months to follow and the superstitious Spanish believe that you need to wear a piece of red underwear given to you by someone else while eating them to guarantee good luck.
Along with the underwear you need to have swallowed all twelve grapes by the final toll of the bell.
Tips and Tactics
To make grape swallowing easier and quicker:
- Get small green seedless grapes
- Try not to laugh (not easy)
- Concentrate on the bongs, you have about 2 seconds for each grape
- Use authentic Spanish tinned seedless peeled grapes.
- Line up the grapes and pop them in, in tune with the bongs
- Halve the grapes beforehand (good for children)
By the way, stuffing them all in your mouth at once or starting before the first bong is cheating and you may suffer the consequences.
If you can down the grapes while under the influence of alcohol, without descending into fits of giggles, and without gagging while all the time wearing the requisite red undergarment then you deserve the good luck they will bring.