canary islands

The tradition of eating 12 grapes for New Year in the Canary Islands: unveiling the reasons

Records suggest that the tradition of consuming grapes on New Year's Eve in Tenerife dates back to at least 1903.

On every 31st of December, Spaniards gear up to ring in the New Year by partaking in the tradition of eating 12 grapes. But how did this deeply rooted custom originate?

Research by RTVE Television’s ‘Ahora o Nunca’ programme traces its origins back to 1909 in Alicante, a year that saw a bountiful grape harvest. To offload the excess and boost sales, a marketing campaign was launched during the festive season, promoting packs of 12 grapes for the year’s final evening.

Moreover, it was widely believed that consuming these fruits would usher in positivity and good fortune, thus transforming them into a symbol of prosperity for the incoming year.

Alternative Theories on the Tradition of Grapes Eating on New Year

The tradition of eating 12 grapes for New Year in the Canary Islands: unveiling the reasons

Yet, some older theories exist. Certain historians suggest that this custom began in the late 1800s in Madrid. It’s said that local Protestants congregated in Plaza de Sol to satirize an elitist tradition of the affluent, who celebrated with champagne and grapes at private gatherings. By consuming grapes to the tolling of 12 bells, they playfully critiqued the nobility as the year concluded.

At the same time, periodicals mentioned “do-gooder grapes”, a delicacy enjoyed on New Year’s Eve, often accompanied by champagne. Initially, this ritual was exclusive to the upper crust, but it gradually gained popularity and spread across Spain. Records even show that in Tenerife, people were eating grapes as early as 1903.

As for why specifically 12 of them, it’s said that each berry represents the 12 months of the year, with a belief that consuming each one will bring luck for its respective month. This tradition, whether born from surplus or satire, has transcended its origins to become a cherished national custom.

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