The Spanish Tradition Of Eating Grapes At The Stroke Of Midnight

Every year on December 31, thousands of New Yorkers gather along Broadway between 43rd and 50th Street to watch the ball drop in Times Square, signaling the start of the new year. Major networks air the all-night spectacle on TV, raking in millions of viewers across the country and beckoning a collective countdown to midnight. Of course, as ubiquitous as it is in the United States, this particular New Year's Eve tradition only comprises a small percentage of the global population. Every country that observes the new year on January 1 has its own way of celebrating.

In Japan, you might eat a bowl of lucky toshikoshi soba to "melt away the hardship of the past year and welcome the new journey ahead," per Just One Cookbook. According to the Greek Reporter, in Greece, you might smash a pomegranate in front of a church. In Denmark, your fellow party guests might tell you to jump off a chair, as if you were jumping into the future. In Spain, you'll see people cramming grapes into their mouths when the bell tolls 12 times.

In Spain, some eat 12 grapes at midnight on NYE for good luck

On New Year's Eve — which in Spain is called Nochevieja, or "old night," per NPR – Madrid's Puerta del Sol plays host to a live broadcast and droves of revelers. Instead of simply cheering and kissing at midnight, however, they each consume one grape for every 12 tolls of the midnight clock tower, sometimes seeding and peeling the grapes beforehand. "There is little time to chew and swallow, much less savor, because about two seconds later there is a second dong and a second grape gets popped into the mouth," notes NPR.

While it might sound as ancient as Spanish wine, according to CNN the tradition arose at the turn of the 20th century as a way for southern Spanish grape producers to get rid of their bumper crops. Over time, though, the custom became known in Spanish as las doce uvas de la suerte, or "the 12 lucky grapes" in English. If you manage to chew and swallow all 12 before the bell goes silent, legend has it you're in or a fruitful year ahead.