Forget the 12 days of Christmas, New Year is all about the grapes (no bubbles). Well, according to the Spanish it is anyway. Let’s face it, if the Spaniards can bring food into it they will (world’s biggest tomato fight anyone?) So why should NYE be any different?
It’s worth bearing in mind, therefore, that before attempting to ring in the changes Spanish style, you’ll need a thin skin and a decent pair of red under-crackers should you at all hope to succeed. This is because in Spain, the grape (or great) fun about New Year is that as the clock strikes twelve, it is a long and very dutifully held belief that swallowing a fruit of the vineat every chime guarantees you good fortune for each month of the year ahead.
Of course, as with any great tradition, there are hard and fast rules which need to be obeyed for the occasion to be marked properly. The grapes must be green and swallowed at the stroke of midnight one after the other until all 12 have been consumed – not such a simple task when you consider the speed at which a clock chimes. In Spain the traditional Aledo variety are even wrapped in paper bags from summer onwards to ensure the peel is much finer and digestion is easier, before being sold as dozen packs to revellers at New Year.
A nice glass of cava (which the Spanish prefer to celebrate with over champagne, obviously) then comes afterwards and, really, you should be wearing red underwear when you do both. Such futile questions as to why crimson corsetry (preferably given to you by someone else), dropping gold objects into said cava before it is consumed in one gulp, or how twelve green grapes hold the key to a prosperous year ahead will, however, get you nowhere.
There are many different ideas on where and when all these quirky traditions began. Some say Spain’s wine-makers started the tradition in a bid to boost demand for grapes in winter, others say the industry had a bumper harvest in the early 1900s and needed a way to get rid of the surplus. It has also been said that the Spanish wanted to respond to a French tradition for enjoying champagne and grapes on the last day of the year, while the red underwear thing possibly dates back to the middle ages (but don’t quote us on that).
Regardless, rare is the Spaniard who would dare threaten their fate for the year ahead by passing on their grapes at midnight, and here at Bar 44 we’re not so keen on looking superstition in the eye either. For that reason, we’ll be following all these traditions at our own Nochevieja (‘old night’) party celebrations this New Year’s Eve too.
Guests keen to say so long to 2017 Spanish style can also expect a nice glass of Vilarnau brut reserva on arrival, a delectable menu of award winning tapas dishes, a house DJ and, of course, that all important grape ceremony. Oh, and dress code includes an optional choice of red underwear, with spot checks otherwise not in force. Just in case you were wondering.