Spain, as all European countries, and a lot of other states in the world, adore the New Year Eve. Preparations for the Christmas and New Year Traditions in Spain, start long-long before hand. Every year, since the middle of November, Spain decorates itself, beginning with the capital – Madrid, the capitals of comunidades, cities, towns and villages, and finishing with remote corners of mountainous regions. Various fairs are being opened, streets are being beautifully illuminated, lots of presents are being bought, delicious delicacies, special for Christmas and New Year Eves, are being cooked, new dresses are being ordered, an what not. Each fair has a special stand, where children write letters to Papá Noel, promising to behave well and asking for dreamed presents. A bit later, in a secret way, their parents receive the letters, and the presents “are sent by Papá Noel”. The Spaniards adore children.
One of the most important things is to decorate the Christmas tree
The trees are sold in flower shops, being tied round with a cord, and maintaining their roots within the clods, which they have been dug out with. After the feast, it is better to give your tree back to the shop, where you have bought it. The shop will return it to a forestry company, in order to re-plant your tree in the forest territory, where the plant has been dug out, before the feast. That is the way to protect nature!
The second, and absolutely indispensable thing, is to prepare twelve grapes for each member of a family and eat them together. The grapes must be eaten, one after another, simultaneously with the twelve strokes of the town hall bell, starting just at the last moments of the old year, and finishing exactly at the New Year Midnight. While eating the grapes, one has to think of the most wonderful and desirable things, which one has been thinking about, for the whole year round.
One stroke – one grape; be careful, and the wishes will come true! There is only one innocent “war ruse” – do not buy big grapes… the lesser each grape is, the easier is the way to chew and swallow it! We have to follow the bell rhythm! It is a joke, of course, but there’s many a true word spoken in jest… The twelve strokes are being broadcast all over Spain, and are listened to by the Spaniards, if they are not in their native country at the moment. They listen to the bell and eat their grapes, and think of their favourite wishes.
New Year Traditions in Spain mean much fun, much hope, much joy;
if you stay at home or go to a central square to welcome a New Year and pass the New Year Eve in the open air, the 31-st of December is something unforgettable. Everybody in the square and in the streets is happy, greeting, embracing, kissing each other; it is not necessary to know each other, “¡Feliz Año Nuevo!” – “Happy New Year!” – this is the password or, better – the passphrase.
The most famous square in Spain, where the grapes are eaten and wishes are thought is la Puerta del Sol in Madrid. It is practically one big party, full of hope and joy. Young people welcome the New Year playing horns, dancing, singing in restaurants, bars and clubs. To enter one of the establishments, people buy tickets and book tables in advance. The revelry lasts till dawn.
One more thing has to be kept in mind – changes in public transport timetables. The metro working hours last less the festive day and start later the next day. Taxis should be ordered before hand and by phone, because of the excess of demand.
As the feast is endless and a person’s strength is not, it is very nice to taste churros (rings of fried mass), covered with powdered sugar, and a cup of hot chocolate. A typical Spanish breakfast. Everything is cooked on-line.
The following day, the best thing to do is to go for a walk in a park or a garden, because shops, restaurants and bars are closed. At night one has an opportunity to watch a film in a nearest cinema. Calmness, tranquillity, elegiac mood – Spain is having rest.
The Christmas Eve
Talking about the most popular and favourite winter holiday in Spain, one has to start with the Christmas Eve, of course. Long before the Feast, the streets and squares of all Spanish cities, towns and villages are beautifully decorated with myriads of multicoloured electric lights; streets, houses, trees… everything is sparkling at a chilly Spanish night. Colourful, hospitable and noisy fairs invite us to buy any thing, which we like, or at least – buy anything. At Christmas, Spanish cities, towns and villages smell of vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg… Special Christmas delicacies are being cooked: turrones, roscones, polvorones…
At Christmas, some Spaniard families – young and old alike – stay at home, cook the most tasty and expensive suppers possible, sing Villancicos (Christmas carols) together and present each other with various presents. The rich ones of the family confer silver coins, as a symbol of the future wealth, upon the other men relatives. To celebrate the nativity of Christ, at Christmas Midnight, which is called la Nochebuena (Christmas Eve), the Spaniards also put church candles on windowsills of their houses. Other families attend la …, so called, Misa del Gallo (“rooster’s mass”) or Misa de los Pastores (“shepherd’s mass”), which is more appropriate to the Text of the Word. Anyhow, the Feast itself is calm, warm and sublime.
The New Year tradition in Spain differs completely from that of the Christmas Eve. While the New Year midnight (la Noche Vieja) is approaching, a lot of Spaniards are leaving for principle squares of their cities and towns. According to the New Year traditions in Spain, they gather in the town hall square to listen to the twelve strokes of the town hall bell and eat las doce uvas (twelve grapes), thinking of the most desirable wishes for the New Year. They drink cava or Champaign, sing and dance, felicitate, kiss and embrace each other, saying the best words to any person in the square and proclaiming: “¡Feliz Año Nuevo!”
Even abroad, the Spaniards, being tradition-directed, follow the custom of las doce uvas, while celebrating the New Year Eve. In this case, their lighthouse is the clock of la Puerta del Sol, in Madrid.
In Vinalopó (Alicante), the 1909 year’s harvest caused overproduction of grapes and gave rise to the above mentioned tradition. In order to increase the consumption of grapes, the local farmers presented all Madrileños with mature bunches of grapes, saying, that they bring fortune. The consumption of the fruit increased enormously. Fireworks is also a New Year tradition in Spain. In some comunidades (Malaga, Pamplona, la Rioja) people arrange street Carnivals, putting carnival costumes on, saying “good bye” to the previous year and greeting the New one.
The University of Salamanca, founded in 1218, and being one of the most ancient in Europe, has established a new tradition, and namely, the university New year’ Eve – la Noche Vieja Universitaria. It has been being celebrated since 2008. The new feast starts on the last Thursday before Christmas holidays and has become popular with a lot of students, even in other cities, for example – Zamora.
La Región de Alpujarra is one of the most attractive zones in Spain, comunidad de Granada. It follows rustic traditions, it opens for us winter landscapes of unprecedented beauty, it offers unforgettable days, among snow-covered trees and snow-capped peaks, and nice nights near fireplaces in cosy houses… but all this is situated too high up, in the mountains of la Sierra Nevada. Few tourists are courageous enough to climb, in winter, some 1480 metres above sea level.
In Bérchules, a small town in Alpujarra, the celebration of the New Year´s Eve in 1994 was under the threat of winter circumstances, because accurate Spaniards did not wish to welcome the feast in an “anyhow” way. Thus, the resourceful inhabitants of the town decided to carry the feast out in…August, creating that way, an original tradition, which gave and gives in August, the growth of the town population from 800 to 10,000 persons!
¡Feliz Año Nuevo!