As the bells in the Puerta del Sol in Madrid chime midnight on New Year’s Eve those gathered in the square and watching TV throughout Spain will down 12 grapes – hopefully before the chimes finish. The same scene will be replicated throughout the nation in city, town and village plazas, at parties indeed wherever celebrations are held. But why?
There appears to be two theories.
The first dates back to 1909 when the Spanish grape growers found they had an excess crop. Hence they decided to spread the legend that to eat twelve of the fruit as the bells counted down would bring good luck for the coming year.
The second comes from the final years of the 19 th century. A group of citizens upset by the decision of the mayor of Madrid, José Abascal, to charge all those who wished to attend the visit from the Three Kings decided to hold their own celebrations. Hence on New Year’s Eve they gathered in the Puerta del Sol to eat grapes with the intention of ridiculing the nobles who traditionally ate grapes and drank champagne to see in the new year. Although this protest was started in Madrid it soon spread throughout Spain. In those days the bells were transmitted from Madrid to the entire nation although today the regional television stations tend to broadcast the countdown from local cities and towns.
So why twelve grapes?
One explanation is it symbolizes the twelve months of the year. Another that it is based on the number of bell chimes. What is agreed is that all must be consumed before midnight is struck.
And on that note let me wish you all every happiness in 2010.