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Eating twelve grapes on New Year’s


Eating twelve grapes on New Year’s Eve

Minor Genre:

Holiday Celebration; Folk Magic


“On the most recent New Year’s Eve, I was at a New Year’s Eve party when someone told me that you’re supposed to eat twelve grapes right after the clock strikes midnight as a new relationship thing. I decided to do it but I accidentally ate the grapes before midnight, so when the clock struck twelve, I ate another twelve grapes. I ended up getting into a love triangle afterward and now I’m superstitious that it was because of the grapes. I had never heard of or practiced this ritual before hearing about it at the party.”


I have heard different variations of this tradition of eating twelve grapes on New Year’s. The tradition is of Spanish origin, and the most popular version seems to be to eat twelve grapes on New Year’s Eve to bring about twelve months of good luck. Other variations include eating the grapes while sitting under the table and eating twelve grapes in order to find a new relationship in the upcoming year. 

This ritual is an example of contagious magic; the grapes are believed to possess a fortuitous quality that is then transferred to a person upon their consumption of the fruit. While I do not necessarily believe in the magical effects of consuming grapes on New Year’s, I do think that it would make sense for a person to trace back to their success in a new year to such an action. Particularly in the informant’s situation, where being in a love triangle is a fairly rare occurrence, it makes sense from a psychological standpoint that they would blame this situation on the mistake they made in the New Year’s Eve grape ritual.

12 Grapes at Midnight on New Year’s Eve

Text: Every New Year’s Eve, the informant’s family eats 12 grapes within the minute-or-so leading up to midnight. Each grape represents one of the 12 months, and as they eat each grape they make a wish for that month. It is a way for them to bring consistent good luck into the new year.

Context: The informant has participated in this tradition every year as far back as they can remember, and their family is who taught it to them originally. The informant and their family are Argentinian and have always lived in Los Angeles. The informant said that this is their favorite New Year’s tradition because it becomes a fun competition between her and her siblings (as to who can finish the grapes the fastest) and looks forward to it every year.

Analysis: This is far from the first time I’ve heard of this New Year’s tradition, as it seems that many Spanish-speaking cultures partake in similar traditions. Potentially, I could see this tradition as an expression of optimism for the incoming year. I could also see this tradition as a way of trying to attract what you want into the new year, as in class we talked about how many New Years traditions revolve around manifestations during the liminal time that is the transition from year to year. In this case, the grapes might symbolize wealth or luxury.