12 Grapes and Fava Beans: New Year Traditions of Venga’s Global Family
Every January, the new year is celebrated across the globe with all kinds of different traditions and rituals, some of them rooted in a country’s culture, some of deeply personal. We’ve asked the members of our global team at Venga about how they celebrate this special day of the year.
Egypt – Marium
Most Egyptian families get together and enjoy a nice meal (mostly seafood) after midnight.
Married couples and parents and their kids will get together to say a short prayer and kiss one another when the clock strikes midnight. Then, people will light fireworks and throw balloons filled with water and old household items (bottles, utensils…) as a sign of leaving behind any unpleasant memory encountered in the past year and being ready to start a new one.
Mexico – Clare
In Mexico, where my husband is from and I lived for years, they eat 12 grapes at midnight and make a wish for each one. Another slightly strange tradition is to choose the color of your underwear that day based on what you are wishing for in the next year. They say, for example, wearing yellow underwear will bring you money.
Spain – Eva
In Spain, we also eat the twelve grapes, one for each bell strike (“campanadas“) leading to midnight. The biggest new year’s gathering in the country is in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square, where thousands of people come together to celebrate.
Another important day is the 6th of January (“Epiphany”), aka “Reyes Magos” (The Three Wise Men). Traditionally, children received their Christmas presents on this day, not Christmas. It’s also a tradition for families to go see the traditional “Cabalgata de Reyes” in their local towns, a parade featuring the Three Wise Men and their camels and pages on the evening of 5th January.
Also on the 6th of January, “roscón de reyes” is eaten, a type of ring-shaped cake decorated with candied fruit, which hides inside a little figurine and a fava bean. Whoever finds the figurine is crowned “king”. Whoever finds the fava bean, has to pay for the cake the next time.
Czech Republic – Michal
For us, New Year’s is the time to go on a hike. Typically, people climb a mountain. Various organizations (political parties, students’ unions, tourist clubs) organize their own hikes and everyone can join. There’s also a custom which says that you shouldn’t eat poultry on New Year’s Day, or else happiness will fly out of the house (on the bird’s wings). Instead, you should eat lentils as this will bring money. And we have a saying “Jak na nový rok, tak po celý rok” (“As on New Year’s Day, so the whole year.”). This means that you be on your best behavior, as New Year’s Day sets the mood for the whole year. You should also dress well and carry some money in your pocket for the same reasons.
Brazil – Alexandra
Here are a few Brazilian New Year’s Eve traditions that are supposed to bring you luck: You should wear all white cloth. Just like in Spain or Mexico, you might want to eat twelve grapes, And if you live near the coast, make sure you go out to the beach and jump over the first seven waves of the new year.
Peru – Karla
Some things Peruvians do on the verge of the new year:
- We wear a yellow piece of clothing (usually underwear) to attract good luck and prosperity
- People run around the block with a suitcase or up the stairs.
- As soon as the clock strikes 12, we eat six red and six white grapes one-by-one as quickly as we can. Each grape allows for a wish for the upcoming year. I usually prepare a list, as it has happened to me that I forgot my wishes due to all the excitement.
- Fill our pockets with the lentils. We believe that they attract money since they usually grow and multiply when we cook them.
And then there is the doll-burning tradition: We stuff a doll with straw and fireworks and give it the face of someone popular like a politician or an entertainer that we are not fond of. The doll is then burned at midnight in the middle of the street.
USA – Sara
The traditional ball-drop at Times Square in New York City is probably the most popular public New Year’s party in the U.S. that many people watch on TV. But there are many local variants of it, too. In Atlanta, Georgia, the Peach State, we have a “peach drop”, for example. The countdown is essentially the main event. At the official start of the new year, everyone shouts “Happy New Year!” and that’s when it all takes off – music, toasts, and fireworks.
‘Auld Lang Syne’ is playing, a song for which everyone knows the melody and that the overall sentiment is leaving behind the old and welcoming the new.
Italy – Raffaele
Across Italy, Natale tends to be a family-centric holiday, a time to stay at home and eat with loved ones.
Along with the fancy lights, wreaths and trees, presepi (nativity scenes) are displayed in many churches and piazzas. Crafting these ornate works of art by hand remains an artisanal tradition in many parts of the country. If you want to go to the source, head to Naples; the southern Italian city is world-famous for their hand-made presepi.
Gifts are commonly exchanged on Christmas Day after lunch, sometimes with the belief that Jesus has delivered them.
Other families may wait until January 6. The Epiphany is when la befana—a kind of “good witch” who is believed to have followed the wise men, but got lost—drops off presents. La befana is a particular tradition in Rome and Bologna, where the main piazzas often host fun activities for children. In Venice, locals believe that la befana arrives every year by boat.
England – Chris
New year’s Eve is not a public holiday in England, most people go to work as usual. In the evening, many English people have parties in their homes. Others celebrate in pubs or clubs with their friends and families, or attend outdoor gatherings and firework displays.
Just before midnight on New Year’s Eve, people hold hands and sing a traditional song called “Auld Lang Syne”. They count the seconds down to the new year and when the clock strikes midnight, they hug and kiss and wish each other a happy new year! Sometimes people set off fireworks as the new year begins.