On the evening of the 31st of December, all televisions in Spain light up with the image of the Puerta del Sol. Thousands of people flock to the square to usher in the New Year and eat 12 lucky grapes to the twelve chimes of the Real Casa de Correos clock.
There are several theories that explain the origin of this grape-eating tradition, but the most popular one dates back to 1909, a year in which wine producers from Levante had so much surplus grapes that they decided to give them away to citizens. They claimed that eating this fruiting berry on New Year’s Eve would bring them good luck, and so, over a hundred years later, this custom is still followed by all households in the country.
Just a few seconds before midnight, the ball, located in the upper part of the tower, is lowered to the sound of the carillon. This is followed by the four quarters (4 warning tolls that give you time to grab that grape that’s rolled under the table) and then, finally, the 12 chimes for your 12 grapes.
And once you’ve managed to swallow them all, had a glass – or two – of champagne, kissed and hugged everyone within reach, then it’s time to get ready to party. The night and the new year have only just begun!
New features this year include the lighting of the Real Casa de Correos, housing the Madrid City Hall, in a light, fireworks and confetti show right after the New Year chimes.
If you can’t be at Puerta del Sol on New Year’s Eve or want to be there twice, on 30 December there’ll be a rehearsal – same time (midnight), same place.