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The Grapes of Wreath: How Latin American Cultures use grapes during the holidays


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Every culture worldwide has a different New Years Eve tradition they hold near and dear. For New Yorkers, it’s standing out below 0 weather to watch the Times Square Ball drop; for the Swiss, it’s dropping a dollop of cream on the floor for good luck. However, the award for most interesting tradition certainly goes to Latin America and Spain. It’s tradition in both Latin American and Spanish cultures to eat 12 grapes on New Year’s Eve. This fun tradition can be found in most Latin American countries, however, it is most celebrated in Mexico and its origins lie in the city of Alicante, Spain. Eating grapes on New Year’s eve as a form of celebration can be dated back to around 1909 in a vineyard in Alicante. Legend has it that the vineyard would try to sell as many grapes as possible before the new year in order to prepare for the new harvest. The twelve grapes on New Years seem to have risen from a need for a winery to sell extra grapes, however, the meaning and tradition it has created are certainly much more significant than its origins. It is known as ‘Las doces uvas de suerte’ (The twelve lucky grapes) in Spanish, one grape is eaten each time the bell strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve.

The traditional variety of grape consumed at the start of the new year is called Aledo. The grapes mature late and are not harvested until November and December.

In most Latin American cultures the twelve grapes are consumed as a welcoming of good luck for each month of the New Year, however, in Mexico, the meaning is slightly different. In most countries the twelve grapes still represent good luck, it is also said that each grape represents a month so if one grape is sour that month will be sour, while a sweet grape may represent a sweet month. In Mexican culture, the grapes not only represent a month but also 12 wishes one gets to make in order to prosper to the fullest in the new year. These grapes are usually eaten in one of two places in Mexican tradition: gathered around the town square, or in the comfort of one’s home with friends and family surrounding them.

This is truly quite a task to complete in just 12 seconds, yes one grape per second, and make a meaningful life-altering wish with each one. While it isn’t a requirement to finish all the grapes in just 12 seconds, it would defiantly add some entertainment to the tradition, I mean imagine seeing your whole family shoveling rapes into their mouths at midnight. In Cuban culture, the rapid intake of grapes is typically followed by a glass full of Sidra. Sidra is a Spanish cider that is fermented without any additional sweeteners, making it the perfect beverage to wash down the good luck! This tradition is the perfect balance of playful and powerful and certainly gets one into the holiday spirit

Whatever your traditions are maybe buy a few grapes this year and see just how much luck they bring you the new year, I’d opt for ripe grapes to ensure that there aren’t any sure months in your future.

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