Spanish New Year Tradition: Eating 12 Grapes

The informant is a 20-year-old guy living in California. His mother’s side of the family is Spanish and his family still practice some Spanish traditions in their American household.

Informant: Basically, at midnight on New Year’s Eve, when the clock strikes twelve, we will eat 12 grapes. Each of them symbolizes a month in the upcoming year, so it’s important that you eat all 12 of them. It gives you good luck.
Collector: Does it matter whether they are green grapes or purple ones?
Informant: I don’t think so. Although I heard my mom say that you should eat the grapes along with the bell trikes. Well, we don’t get that here in California, so we kind of just eat them one by one.

In Spain, there are a great variety of grapes and grapes are important to their agriculture and wineries. Grapes are most likely a symbol of prosperity. According to the article in Atlas Obscura, the tradition might come from a clever farmer’s marketing strategy to digest a surplus harvest, or from an imitation of French customs acted by the bourgeoisie in Spain. Regardless of the origin, Spanish people see this tradition as a way to avoid bad luck and bring good luck for the upcoming year. This idea of 12 grapes symbolizing 12 months can be seen as homeopathic magic, meaning that the people would have grapes, or other crops, to harvest every month in the upcoming year. Some parts of this tradition are lost in the informant’s family since they emigrated from Spain to the United States; however, they still continue to perform this tradition each year to remember their cultural roots and cultural identity.