Updated: February 20, 2023Published: August 28, 2022
New Year’s traditions exist. And they do for a GOOD reason! Even if you’re not superstitious -which I’m not, BTW- the Spanish New Year traditions are extremely fun!
Stick around ‘cause these 7 super cool Spanish traditions are a MUST-know. They’re the best way I know to start the New Year the way all New Year should start… powerful!
Go ahead, open notes on your phone, and write down the Spanish tradition that will unleash a great new year for yourself.
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And if you want to hear it form Spaniards themselves, we recorded this video were we asked people from all over Spain about their New Year Traditions. I hope you find it as funny as I did!
1. Attend New Year’s traditional parties for joy
First of all, it is NOT New Year’s without parties. Imagine the following: it is December 31st and you wake up around 10 am. You slept great and you are now ready to be awake for the next 24 hours (no joke). The schedule for the day is basically eating and celebrating with family and friends.
Spanish people from smaller villages gather in their main square to countdown the new year with a glass of cava. Don’t be fooled! Even in small villages, the celebrations last until the body gives up.
But - and get ready for this - people living in Madrid and Barcelona get a bigger, louder, and (very, very) crowded celebration.
In Madrid, “Puerta del Sol” is the most famous spot for celebrating New Year’s. People gather in the big square to be present at the stroke of midnight. Here you can see them eat the traditional 12 grapes at the rhythm of twelve chimes (also done at any home). Then, they party in the streets or bars until the sun comes up. Beware! Because the joy is not complete until people eat their “chocolate con churros” in San Ginés.
Here is another video of the 2022 celebration, go ahead to minute 21 to feel the virtual excitement of the day.
How does Barcelona celebrate? With a beautiful event in Montjuic.
People in Barcelona gather in Montjuic for a wonderful light- event filled with music and fireworks. I will leave you a link below to the 2020 event, so you can see a bit of this amazing party.
2. Eat 12 grapes for luck
Okay…now, what tradition brings the luck of the new year? Actually, there is more than one tradition for prosperity, but this one is the most important one. Why? Simple. Is super fun.
So, the legend (or history) says that in the 19th century wine farmers from Alicante encouraged this tradition to sell more grapes after an abundant harvest. Nowadays, most people in the country do it, mostly for fun. How does it work? So, just when the clock strikes midnight, you gotta eat a grape per bell stroke - almost per second to “guarantee” luck in the next year.
Helena, a 22-year-old student from Almeria, told us that this tradition is not about luck but fun in her family. For her, is all about the expectation before midnight. Being super attentive to the clock to begin eating at the right time. In her family, the trickiest part is to not confuse “los cuartos” (the fast, short chimes that give you a heads up for the real ones) with the real new year chimes. A good laugh is another powerful way to begin the year!
If you want to try it at home - please don’t choke- here you got more info about this tradition.
3. Buy underwear for love or gold (!!!)
Once again, I am not the superstitious kind but this one is another, very popular tradition on New Year. If you ever visit Spain for this holiday, you will see red and yellow clothing EVERYWHERE.
How does this tradition work? Well, the color red attracts love. Wearing red underwear on New Year gives Cupid a sign to find the perfect match for the year to come. The color yellow attracts gold. Just like the 12 grapes, people use this color in the hope to get more financial prosperity. Both always need a little personal effort, just saying 🤷🏽.
4. Feast lentils for wealth
Grapes and yellow underwear are not your only choice of wealth (nor the last). And, if you are a fan of lentils you will love this tradition.
So, it is said that eating a bowl of lentil soup for lunch attracts wealth because each bean represents a “coin”. Once again, this is another tradition practice by some families in Spain, and if you are curious about family dishes of this holiday, check this out!
5. Drink cava for abundance
Okay, I don’t know what you drink to toast New Years’, but in Spain cava is mandatory (Yup! You read it right). Remember our friend Helena? Well, she is not quite into cava but on December 31st she has no option but to drink away.
Cava itself is a Spanish New Year tradition. But, some people like to spice it up a bit to ask for more abundance in different aspects of their life.
How does it work? Is said that if people wish for fidelity, they should drop a golden wedding ring in the glass. If they wish for fortune, they should drop a coin. And, if they wish for love, cherry or strawberry will do the trick.
The glass of cava must be drunk after the midnight toast, and the object should be retrieved from the bottom of the glass.
If you do this at home, be careful not to drink the nonedible objects!
Photo from our friend Valeria, 24 years old in Pamplona, getting ready for the countdown with grapes and cava.
6. Choose a disguise for new beginnings
Yes… I know this one is a bit unique. Kind of Halloween in December (?). There is really no official story behind this tradition, but I have the urban myth for you.
Some believe the meaning behind disguising is getting rid of the old year - kinda like the old vibes. People wear colorful wigs or accessories to attract positive things. This tradition is not completely spread in the country, but it’s done in cities like Pamplona, Navarra (northern Spain), or Coin, Malaga (Andalusia).
7. Step into the new year with the right foot to get everything above
Has anyone ever asked you, “did you wake up with the left foot or on the wrong side of the bed?”. If you have, this Spanish tradition will be an easy to understand. All you got to do is - drumrolls- make your first step into the year with the right foot.
“On the right foot” usually means that something had a favorable or positive beginning. Well, this has become a tradition in Spain. To begin the year with the right foot, people place it in front of the left fot while eating the twelve grapes.
Actually, we could say that if someone did everything above, then taking the first step with the right foot just seals the deal.
These 7 New Year’s traditions above carry a cultural meaning that prepares Spanish people for powerful beginnings. Once again, I am not the superstitious kind, but I truly enjoy doing some of this while celebrating with my family. Having fun with the poeple you love is the best way to ensure powerful beginnings.
These New Year traditions are only a part of the whole holiday. Did you know that people can also hear the twelve chimes on December 30th? Well, they can! There is more stuff about New Year in Spain that can’t be said in one post. So, now that you wrote the traditions for powerful (and fun) beginnings, go ahead and check out the complete story on this holiday.
Inigo Navarro is a seasoned travel writer with a deep understanding of Spain's cities, culture, people and language. Born and raised in Spain, he has spent years exploring the country and is currently one of the most-read Travel Bloggers about Spain. Inigo is also an experienced digital marketer, a father to 4 beautiful children and a huge Real Madrid Fan. ¡Hala Madrid!