Tag Archives: spain

The 12 Grapes of New Years

Background: The informant is a 19 year old girl who is currently a college student in Chicago, Illinois. She was also born and raised in the city.  One winter break in high school, the informant did a study abroad program in Spain, where she was able to stay for 4 weeks and immerse herself in the culture

Context: The context was over a phone call, the informant was asked if had any New Year’s traditions, and she shared one she saw while overseas.

Text:

IT: In Spain, when New Years comes around, when the clock is clicking at the last 12 seconds, people will eat 12 grapes to represent the last year. If they eat all the grapes – which is a bit of a choking hazard – it’s considered good luck.

Me: Is it considered bad luck if you don’t finish?

IT: Hm, I don’t think it’s considered bad luck. I believe it’s like, you won’t have as much good luck as someone who did finish all the grapes. I was surprised when I saw them doing it because I’ve never seen it before. It was really interesting. Eating a certain amount of fruit is popular in a lot of places. It reminds me of Persephone eating 7 pomegranate seeds, symbolizing seven months of time.

Analysis: 

Informant: She was very excited to learn about a new culture, and it was interesting and impactful enough to her that she wished to share it. It seemingly stuck out more in her head than her own traditions.

Mine: Grapes are a unique fruit to choose and why they could be considered lucky is interesting. It could be because grapes bring in a large amount of money from the wine industry, hence, they become associated with wealth and good luck. It could be that given their shape, they somewhat represent a circle which could be time and the continuity of the year restarting. The comparison to Greek mythology is a great parallel, understanding that basic ideas and symbols can transcend the bounds of one society and into another. It doesn’t matter truly what the fruit is but eating the fruit symbolizes the same thing, it’s the concept that is the same.

Spanish Fruit Eating Dance

DESCRIPTION OF PERFORMANCE: Spanish music was playing. She was standing, swaying her hips back and forth. She took her right hands and gestured it upward as if grabbing something out of a tree. She twisted her hand like pulling it out and pretended to take a bite out of the imaginary object. She then pretended to wipe the object all over her body until she reached her left hip and then it a swift movement, pretended to throw the object onto the floor. 

INFORMANT DESCRIPTION: Female, 72, Spanish

CONTEXT: This dance is supposed to symbolize taking an apple or fruit from a tree, eating it and then throwing it away. She learned it in a dance bar in Spain growing up in the 50s. It was a somewhat known dance that she said was very sensual and attractive. It involved the hip movement of her culture’s dance and incorporated themes of Adam and Eve and the countryside. She always loved this dance and would do it constantly to different music. To her it represented femininity and her country’s beautiful dance culture. 

THOUGHTS: When I saw this dance in person I was mesmerized. I had never seen anything like it and it was interesting because I could immediately understand that she was picking a fruit from a tree, the movements were very clear yet melodic.

12 Grapes for the New Year

Main Text:

DC: “On New Years at 12:00 am you are supposed to consecutively eat one grape each second for a total of 12 grapes in 12 seconds for good luck in the new year.”

Context: 

Although I collected this from a Mexican woman who is my boyfriend’s sister-in-law, I also witnessed and performed this tradition on New Years of this year while at a New Years celebration at my boyfriend’s family’s house. To give context, we all counted down along with the timer on the T.V. and my boyfriend’s mom was rushing around trying to give us all 12 grapes off the vine. It ended up being a mess with everyone dropping grapes and stuffing our faces while trying not to joke, but it ended with us all laughing and enjoying the company of each other. I asked DC why she thinks this tradition and folk belief has been passed aline within her family and others and she speculated that grapes is some cultures must be seen as lucky.

Analysis:

Recent articles say that the practice of eating grapes on New Years goes back to as old as the 1880s. In the 1880s, the bourgeoisie of Madrid were said to have celebrated the ending of the year by copying the French tradition of eating grapes and drinking champagne. This tradition then grew over time and led people tp believe that they needed to eat 12 grapes to have luck for all of the 12 months to follow in the New Year. Over time, this practice was used in order to mock the wealthy bourgeoisie and the ‘common’ people of Madrid began eating grapes to make fun of the practice that was performed by the wealthy middle class. Subsequently, this custom caught on and more and more people began to do it because they thought it would bring them good financial like if the Bourgeoisie of Madrid were doing it.

With the known history of grape eating as way to celebrate the end of a year being revealed, the belief in financial gain was probably a big pushing factor to many and encouraged them to share this belief and continue the custom. I feel too that media coverage also has encouraged the adaptation of said belief by larger parts of Europe, people in the United States and Even people in Mexico City. On New Years, the camera for the main national tv centers on the clock tower of the 18th-century Real Casa de Correos in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol. Announcers then tell the instructions to all of the people in the audience and they then begin eating the 12 grapes. Centuries ago, TV was not around and these traditions had to be purely face to face, but that feudal folkloric model. With the introduction of tv and the Internet, people are now able to share cultures and practices all over the world in a way like never before even with people they have never met and will never meet in person. This new folklore model creates a world in which folklore can be spread all throughout the world to those with access to TV and internet in such ease that more and more people begin adopting and creating variations of other people’s traditions, like what I believe has happened here with the eating of 12 gapes on the New Year.

 

Banana Peels and Sore Throats

The informant, my grandfather, is a 67-year-old man who was born and raised in the Sacramento Valley. His mother was also born in the United States, and is of Spanish, German, and French descent. While riding in the car on the way to breakfast, I asked if he remembered any of the home remedies his mother would use when he was sick.

“When I or any of my siblings had a sore throat, my mom would take a banana, peel it, and place the moist side of the banana peel against our feet. Then we had to put socks on. Apparently, whatever was left in the banana peel would heal your sore throat. Maybe it had to do with the potassium or something. I’m not sure if it ever really worked, but we still did it.”

I was a bit taken aback by this form of folk medicine, mostly because I could not imagine the sensation of having a banana peel forced inside of my sock. The informant did not initially tell me where his mother learned of this remedy. After I followed up to determine whether it was an idiosyncrasy, the informant said that his mother learned of the healing properties of banana peels from her mother, who was born in Spain, and that the tradition had been prominent within their community as doctors were scarcely available and most remedies were communicated orally. However, the informant decided not to continue the tradition and pass it down to his children because he felt there were better remedies available for a sore throat. Perhaps the idea of a banana peel having medicinal properties comes from the fact that fruits, and bananas in particular, are rich in vitamins and minerals. Banana peels are cool to the touch, and so may be capable of alleviating skin irritations or abrasions. It is unclear how these properties applied to the bottom of one’s foot would help to remedy a sore throat, but maybe the unfamiliar sensation served as a distraction from the pain that the child felt in their throat by focusing attention to a different area of the body.

Names

Collector: Oh! Do the story about why that guy got mad at you, or got mad at someone…

Informant: So, I don’t know if you’ve heard this story Maddie, um when I was in Spain, uh, so the word, like the colloquial term for blowjob is a person’s name in every city in Spain, and so, um, like in my friend’s town Toledo, Maria, and then in Granada it’s Victoria, um, so that’s just the context. So, I’m out with my friends—I was friends with this Spanish guy named Mario—and in Spain you go on dates, it’s like middle school style dating, so group dates. And so, um, Mario would ask me out and said invite some of your friends, so me and my two American friends were meeting up with his two friends, but then last minute his really good friend from where he’s from, Cordova, came to visit down in Granada, and so we were like—he was like “one more person” and I was like “oh my other friends are busy,” and he was like, “it’s fine, like [whatever his name is] will just come hang out”—I think his name was David. And so, we’re all at this bar hanging out, and then, um, we were doing like a pub crawl, and so we were supposed to head down to the next place, and so, um, his other friend, Luis, was like “oh guys we’re going to this next bar in 5 minutes, like finish your drinks,” and so like all the Spanish people are lightly sipping, and the Americans start to, like, you know, really try and down their drinks, and my friends, Claire and Diana, had like straws in their drinks and so they were trying to, kind of like, furiously sip.

Person: You have another friend named Diana?

Informant: Mhm

Person: Rude. Rude!

Informant: She looks nothing like you, so it’s okay.

Person: Sorry, continue.

Informant: She’s Italian and from upstate New York. Um, and so, we—but I had a beer, and so I needed to like, chug it, so I just, you know, like, I’m an adult and a frat star, I chug my beer. And I look, everyone’s kind of staring at me, because in Europe you don’t have to, like, chug your drinks because you’re an adult, um and you can drink it slow and be a normal person. Um, and so I’m like, whatever, I did it, it’s done, don’t make fun of me. And, um, I look up, and David is like smirking, and he says, “Aye que buenas Mayas,” and in Granada, at least in Spain, mallas, I’ve always been taught that means leggings, so it’s M-A-L-L-A-S, leggings, like, you know, like, the pants, so, um, I was like “what?” because I was wearing jeans, so I was like, maybe he thinks these are like, jeggings, okay whatever. And, like, I look over at Mario, and Mario looks furious. And I’m like, okay. And he said something really fast to David in Cordovan slang, and—Cordovian—and like, I don’t know what it means, and I, but I can tell he’s really pissed, but I’m like, I don’t know why you’re angry, okay. And so we start walking to the next bar, and I’m like holding hands with Mario, and I’m like, “Why were you so upset?” And he was like, “Oh, I don’t want to talk about it.” And I’m like, “No, I don’t understand, I didn’t really get the joke, so like what did that mean?” Because like Mario speaks English and Spanish, and so in Spanish I’m asking this, but like, “Can you explain it in English because I don’t get it.” And he was like, in English, “No we’re not going to talk about it.” And I was, he never speaks to me in English unless I ask him to, so I was like, “No, just, just, tell me.” And he like, will not say it, and I’m like, I’m the worst, when I want to know something, I will, I will force you to tell me, and so eventually he’s like, “He was saying, you know like how here Victoria means, like, blowjob?” I was like, “yeah.” He was like, “Well, in like, our town, outside of Cordova, like, Mayas are like blowjobs.” And I was like, “Wait what?” And he was like “Cause, you know, you chugged your drink, so you have to like open your throat, just kind of pour it…” And I was like, “Oh, Bueno, Bueno, [what sounds like “tamos”] a qui…” I switched right back to Spanish, because I was like I don’t want to talk about this hmmmm. So, that’s the end of that story.

 

Informant is a junior at the University of Southern California. She is studying communications here. She is from Boston, Massachusetts. She spent a while in the southern part of Spain, and speaks fluent Spanish. I spoke to her while we were eating lunch at my sorority house one day. We were sitting together with some of my other informants. Much of what she told me was learned from her own experiences.

 

I had recalled her telling this story, and thought that it was interesting and a new part of a culture I wasn’t very familiar with. As we were sitting at lunch discussing folklore, I remembered that she had told me this before, and asked her to tell it again. I haven’t heard of any other culture that does this to so much of an extent. It seems that every place, or so it’s suggested, uses some woman’s name for blowjob. It’s also interesting to see the difference in cultures having to do with the consumption of alcohol. It seems that a stereotype perpetuated by the party culture of many large and small universities is so different than the way the majority of the world consumes alcohol.