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Catalan folklore

Catalan and Spanish traditions in New Year’s Eve

Written by Adriana

Christmas has gone away and you probably have already received and given away a lot of presents and consumed far more calories than your body is able to accept. But wait! That’s not all folks… There’s still New year’s eve to celebrate with the traditional family dinner or the party with friends and the “good morning hangover”. You know, happy nights, sad mornings. During these special days in Catalonia and, in general, in Spain, there are several traditions that all foreigners must know if they want to feel fully integrated into our culture and celebrating the new year as a local. If you would like to receive the 2014 as it deserves to be full of success and happiness, tradition says you must follow a simple “rules”. If you stay in one of the apartments ShBarcelona and want to experience the Catalan celebration of new year’s eve, here are some traditions that you can mix with your own ones or add to them:

-Eating 12 grapes in the last 12 seconds of the year: all Spaniards and some people in other countries have the tradition of eating 12 grapes in the last seconds of the year that are announced by 12 bell peals. With each stroke one should eat a grape until there are any. That, aside from being a massive ingestion of the fruit that has sometimes led to my grandmother’s choking, is supposed to guarantee good luck throughout the coming year. Some people use to peel the grape and remove the seeds from them. Those people are just cowards! this tradition must be respected! (and you can always practice before). Oh, and the bell peals are usually seen on TV in the “cheesy” programs that you’ll find on Spanish and Catalan TV with celebrities and their elegant dresses and suits. At the end of the 12 bell strokes people use to kiss on the mouth or on the cheek depending on the level of trust and make a toast with cava or champagne.

Wear red underwear: it is supposed that wearing red underwear on New Year’s Eve bring you love and good luck the coming year. Yes, must be new and unused, wearing the same red underwear every year is not allowed. I don’t know what could happen if they are used but just in case, don’t take the risk! In some countries the underwear that you should wear is yellow to attract money. You can choose between money or love!

Write and burning desires in a paper: some families have the habit of writing their wishes for the new year in a paper and burn them all in a small saucepan to ensure that they will be fulfilled. Be careful with the typical pyromaniac cousin (he will be waiting all night for that moment to burn the wishes to come), but try to do it, what can you lose?

The “cotillón”: once you have eaten the 12 grapes you can go out partying at night because the next day you won’t have to work, hurray! In Spain and in Catalonia people use to wear the “cotillón” at those parties, they are masks, noisemakers, confetti, bright hats, etc. Some people organize parties at friends’ houses or in rented places for the occasion with open bar (=bad hangover guaranteed), and others prefer to pay an expensive entry into any nightclub or party to dance until dawn. You can also opt for the quiet plan at home with the family, but it is always good to get out for a walk to see the celebrating atmosphere surrounding you.

Costumes: although the cotillion is already a bit of a “costume” in some cities in Spain people use to wear a full costume to go out and celebrate the new year, but it is unusual in Barcelona. It’s actually a night where anything goes, so you can wear whatever you want, although we don’t recommend you trying to get into a fancy party with a multicolored wig, for example.

About the author


Adriana is a writer, content & community manager, web designer, media analyst and tireless traveler.

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