Superstition – Cuban


At midnight on New Years Eve, you are supposed to throw a bucket of ice water out of your front door. You are also supposed to eat 13 grapes at the stroke of midnight– for fortune, health and wealth. The number thirteen is for the past twelve months and one extra one for the year to come.


Chris first heard of this superstition when he was little kid, catching onto the Cuban traditions. He was probably around the age of five or six. It is performed only on New Years Eve and one is supposed to have a bucket ready to do this in case he or she is going out. Chris thinks this a cool tradition; he only believes it to a certain extent but still does it every year out of tradition.

I actually spent this past New Years Eve with Chris.  We went to a nice house party in which mostly Cubans were in attendance.  Chris told me all the guests were eating grapes and throwing buckets of water at midnight, although I didn’t notice probably because unaware of its significance.

This tradition has contrasting details compared to other cultures.  The Cubans almost all dump buckets of water out into the street at midnight, which is symbolic of throwing out the dirty water of the past year and starting fresh and clean.  On the contrary, the Chinese consider this extremely bad luck.  They believe that on New Years Day, washing or cleaning anything will actually take away all the good luck that the gods have brought one’s way.  This is an interesting comparison because the two cultures have completely divergent views on the same action.

After researching this superstition, I came across some variations.  Many people are accustomed to eating only twelve grapes.  They wait until exactly 12 pm and eat a grape for each of the next twelve seconds.  Many people don’t actually finish the grapes because it is fairly hard to do with the time constraint.  Furthermore, if one of the grapes is sour, one will have a bad month sometime that following year and if one has a sweet, the corresponding month will also be sweet.  I’m not sure if Chris is aware of this version, but his may be a cognate to his family’s origins.

This superstition seems to be more of a Spanish tradition.  It is believed the tradition dates back many years.  In the olden days of Spain, any large harvest was rare and thus celebrated when it happened.  At the turn of the century, Spain experienced a huge grape harvest.  The king gave all the citizens grapes to eat and the tradition has continued even until today.