Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Celebrating the arrival of the New Year in Spain

The evening of 31st December found us in Murcia, the capital of the region with the same name. We had a chance to observe the New Year traditions ‘up close’ and be part of it, too. Let me tell you how it went.

The New Year’s Eve or ‘Nochevieja’ here is generally spent with the family. Here in Murcia it seemed to be true as when we first ventured into the town it was completely empty with all the shops and restaurants closed and shutters pulled down. We had serious trouble finding somewhere to eat dinner. Even young people tend to stay with their families and head out into the night after midnight to celebrate in one of the clubs or street parties.

We were very excited to celebrate this night in Spain as they have a quirky tradition connected to it. According to the custom people here eat grapes at midnight, one for every chime of the clock. The twelve chimes represent the twelve months of the year and for each grape you eat in sync with the clock you get a month of good luck. If the stories can be believed this tradition originates from a year when the harvest was particularly good and the king decided to give grapes to everybody to eat on New Year’s Eve.

After dinner we were busy preparing our grapes. We have heard horror stories of people not being able to eat their grapes as they were full of seeds and the skin can sometimes be quite thick so by the time the clock hits the sixth stroke people look like hamsters, their mouths full of grapes. We didn’t want to risk anything as we really need our luck for the next year so we took the advice of our Spanish teacher (or rather her grandma) and de-seeded them beforehand.

At half past 11 we made our way to the main square of Murcia. Slowly people gathered around us. From the smallest to the oldest they were all clutching grapes in nicely prepared boxes, already opened cans (you can buy seedless, pre-peeled ones in the shop in cans!) or plastic bags and cups. We also took out our containers and waited for the magical moment.

The whole event was conducted from the Puerta del Sol, a big square in Madrid. We watched it on a big screen together with the rest of the country as some famous people were getting ready for the grape-feast.

To continue the horror stories connected to the New Year’s Eve I have read that there are four ‘preparatory’ strokes. There are always some who fall for it and start eating their grapes too early. Apparently a few years ago even a famous politician did this and got laughed at by the whole country. I told this to Paul who just waved a dismissive hand saying why would they trick people with false strokes.

And this was the reason that as soon as we heard the first strike we started stuffing the grapes in our mouths. When I looked around I realised that nobody’s eating but by then it was too late, we’d already swallowed two! It seems like this year we will only have ten lucky months. I’m not that upset as it still sounds pretty good. Next year, however, we’ll be ready!

Felíz Año Nuevo/Boldog Uj Evet/Happy New Year to all!

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