Traditions from around the world
Ready for the New Year?

Noche Viejaliterally meaning “Old Night”is the Spanish equivalent of New Year’s Eve. People celebrate it with the zest and vivacity common in Latin American and Spanish cultures, and next to their beloved family and close friends. Everything from prepping the home to getting ready for a year of travel, Spaniards and Latin Americans have many ways of welcoming the New Year with a bang and securing great fortune for the next 12 months.

  1. Grapes. Have you heard of the 12 grapes? That’s one of the prime New Year’s Eve traditions in Spain and Latin America to bring in good luck. It consists of eating 12 grapesone  for every monthduring the countdown to the New Year.
  2. Cleaning the house. Like the Japanese, most Latin Americans believe in doing certain house rituals before the New Year. How would you prepare to welcome a dear friend from abroad? You would probably clean your house and make sure everything is presentable. For Latin Americans and Spaniards, this is what it is like to welcome the New Year.
  3. A good sweep. You might say this is part of the traditional cleaning rituals. Actually, this is symbolic sweep to get rid of bad luck or negative energy.
  4. Burning the old. In order to get rid of the old, many Hispanics will literally burn it. In places like Ecuador and Panama, people will burn dollsmuñecossometimes representing politicians or people who played a significant role in your life.
  5. Colorful clothes. In hopes of a bright future ahead, a lot of people wear bright colors on New Year’s Eve. They often wear a new set of clothes.
  6. Red underwear? As funny as this might seem, some Hispanics believe a specific color underwear should be worn on Noche Vieja. Spaniards, for example, opt for red underwear fopr prosperity and good fortune, In the Domnican Republic ,on the other hand, the underwear can be yellow, symbolizing farewell to the old year.
  7. Dancing and singing. Latin Americans and Spaniards love to sing and dance. When the families gather on Noche Vieja, they sing Christmas carols, known as aguinaldos, and play instruments, such as tambourines and guitar.
  8. Luscious food. Cooking for Noche Vieja is no easy task. It requires bringing out family recipes or country-specific dishes. Like during Christmas time, food can include plenty of meat, seafood, empanadas, and tapas. In Spain, it is traditional to eat lentils for good luck. Drinks include wine, champagne and cavasparkling wine from Catalonia.
  9. Cash for all! In some families money is stashed away. In others, money is handed out. Sometimes this tradition is taken a step further. In my Dominican family, for example, when the clock strikes midnight, my mother appears with a stash of cash and throws it in the air. Everyone acts a little nuts and rushes to grab as many bills as possible. This is meant to represent a year of abundance.
  10. Get packing! Many Latin Americans pack their luggage as a symbolic way of preparing for a year of fun travel and adventures abroad. Many go outside with their luggage and walk around the block.
  11. Fireworks. At the strike of midnight, everyone hugs and kisses. Cities and towns display fireworks. This is a great way to welcome the New Year and celebrate all that’s ahead. Feliz Año Nuevo!
  12. 12 resolutions. The writing of 12 resolutions for the coming year is deeply ingrained in the culture. What’s on your New Year’s resolutions list ?
Irma Cedeno

Irma is an educator, linguist, creativity expert, cultural competence strategist, and the founder of Diáfano, a company responsible for designing and implementing Spanish classes and programs at corporations. From universities and top US institutes to Fortune 500 companies, Irma has been an integral part of language learning and cultural competence training. After travelling to 40+ countries (and counting!) and over 10 years of working in education, she developed and honed her methodology in 2013. The Diáfano Method is student-centered methodology that breaks down language learning into clear and simple steps.
Irma grew up bilingual and is a proud learner of French, Italian, Portuguese, and Japanese. Check her out at

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