To Ring In The New Year In Spain, It Is Traditional To — What? Spanish Custom Adds New Twist To Watching Ball Drop

For more than a century, to ring in the New Year, Americans have watched the New Year’s Eve Ball drop down a flagpole at One Times Square in New York City. The tradition dates back to 1907 when the first of seven versions of the ball dropped to mark the change of the calendar. But if “ball watching” is getting a little old, the tradition used to ring in the New Year in Spain offers a new way to celebrate — or at least, a new dimension to add to the usual festivities.

The vast majority of Americans, it seems safe to say, are familiar with the countdown to midnight followed by a joyous smooch on the lips for the nearest loved one — or whoever happens to be standing by — as the clock strikes midnight. But for the Spanish, that’s the moment when the celebration actually begins. The countdown isn’t as important as the 12 strokes of midnight themselves.

In fact, just as Americans have the Times Square ball drop, the Spanish have the Puerta del Sol clock tower in Madrid, whose 12 chimes at midnight marking the first 12 seconds of the New Year, are broadcast throughout the country.

So what is the Spanish tradition to ring in the New Year? With each chime of the clock, everyone eats a grape — 12 grapes in all. And that’s not even the full extent of the tradition, which is traced back to 1909 but has roots decades earlier.

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The eating of 12 grapes, one for each chime of the clock at midnight on New Year's Eve, is how they ring in the New Year in Spain. (Image By Kiko Jimenez/Shutterstock)

While downing a dozen grapes may sound simple, eating 12 grapes — green ones — in 12 seconds can be easier said than done, especially in Spain where seedless grapes are uncommon. Of course, seedless grapes are rather easy to come by in the United States, so those are highly recommended for revelers who want to add the grape-eating tradition to the 2017 New Year’s celebration.

The “12 grapes” is in some ways as much a superstition as a tradition. Each chime of the clock represents on month in the year to come, and easting a single grape with each chime is supposed to bring good luck and prosperity throughout each month. But there’s a catch. By the time the last chime finishes ringing, all 12 grapes must be done — consumed, swallowed — not simply half-chewed.

But in at least some parts of Spain, there is a second element to the ritual of the 12 grapes. This part, depending on the circumstances, may actually lead to a little fun for one and all than simply swallowing 12 grapes as fast as possible. In this second part of the ritual, the grapes must be consumed while each person eating grapes wear at least one item of red undergarments.

Any type of red underwear counts — briefs, boxers, a bra — even a garter belt for revelers who want to get a little extra racy. Any type of ropa interior will do.

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Wearing a single item of red underwear is also part f the Spanish New Year tradition. (Image By Pawel Sierakowski/Shutterstock)

The wearing of red underthings is said to be especially lucky for those looking for love in the year ahead. But there’s a catch there as well. For the spell to really work, the red underwear must have been given to the wearer as a gift. Either that or the undergarment itself must be removed and gifted to someone else before the New Year’s festivities come to a close.

Now, that may be the most fun part of the way they ring in the New Year in Spain — a tradition that Americans may want to test out this New Years.

[Featured Image by Sergio Camacho/Getty Images]