There are many New Year’s Eve traditions so many of us hold dear to our hearts. I know I have celebrated in just about every way on this list at different points in my life. Whether you toast a glass of champagne or kiss for good-luck, discover the origins of all the traditions that start the New Year off right.
Eat 12 grapes
In this tradition, you must eat 12 green grapes during the bells at midnight. If you finish chewing and swallowing all 12 grapes before 12:01 a.m. on New Year’s Day, you’re sure to have good luck in the new year.
This tradition began in Spain in the 1880s. The bourgeoisie in Madrid started to copy the French tradition of drinking champagne and eating grapes to celebrate the last day of the year. It’s unclear how this transformed into the mad dash for good luck it is today, but nonetheless, it’s a fun and historical tradition popular in Spain, Central, and South America.
I got to ring in the New Year by scarfing down grapes as fast as I could back in college on a study abroad. I was in Argentina and my local friends convinced me to try it with them. Y’all, let me tell you, it is harder than it sounds! Needless to say, that following year wasn’t the luckiest for me—I only got through eight grapes!
This tradition originated in Ancient Rome. They used to have a Saturnalia festival where the Romans gathered during the winter solstice to drink, party, and celebrate the God of agriculture—Saturn. I recently learned this wild Roman extravaganza may also be the reason we kiss under the mistletoe during the holidays!
This tradition is one we’ve all heard of around here. We toast our champagne glasses, take a swig, and turn to kiss someone. The trick is, you’re not supposed to kiss just anyone—you have to kiss the person you plan to kiss throughout the New Year. Kissing at midnight means you and your partner will be together all year long.
Light a Bayberry Candle
Lighting a bayberry candle is a tradition that began when the first colonial people arrived in the New World. Candles used to consist of animal fat, and so when it burned, it gave off a foul smell and gaseous fumes. To create something a little more pleasant, women of the time turned to the bayberry bush which melted into a nice wax. However, they only lit these candles on special occasions due to how difficult they are to make.
You must light a bayberry candle right as you see the first star enter the sky on New Year’s Eve. The trick is your candle must burn all the way past midnight, or else you’ll have bad luck in the New Year. This is a fun tradition I learned from my grandmother. She gave me and my brother a candle every year for Christmas to make sure we would have them ready in time for New Year’s. One thing she made sure we knew was that you can’t put out the candle yourself—you have to let it burn out on its own or you’ll have terrible luck all year ‘round. This is why it’s so important to light the candle properly and safely!
So what Traditions That Start the New Year Off Right do you have?