I was surprised… the New Year’s Eve celebration was relatively quiet. After dinner with a friend, I headed off to the city center to see what was going to happen at midnight. Unlike the fireworks-laden events that I have seen at malls, town squares, and driveways throughout my life, there were no fireworks here. Instead, families eat dinner together, and then there are a couple of very different traditions to be observed:
- Wear new red underwear. The tradition here is that wearing red underwear brings luck. However, I have a feeling it has more to do with (ahem) “getting lucky” than it does with bringing luck. Judging by the types of underwear found in the stores that I have seen here in Valencia, all that luck must be going into somebody’s pants. Ahem.
- Eating 12 grapes. Much like the various devices “dropping” in the United States (personal experience with the NYC ball dropping, the Georgian version of the peach dropping, and so on), the “official” place to be is Puerto del Sol in Madrid. Barring that, however, any city center will do, and the Ayuntamiento in Valencia works just fine. Grab your grapes and eat one for each “bong” of the clock, and hopefully avoid choking. The funniest part about this tradition is its origin: there was a grape overage one year in Spain, and the farmers encouraged the villages to eat grapes on New Year’s Eve at midnight to help stimulate the grape economy. Clearly, it worked like a charm.
- Party like it’s… ummmm… last year. Pubs, discos, and bars were packed after midnight. My friends and I attempted to get service at a tiny little Cuban pub near the city center, but with the DJ behind the counter, the kid of about 13 working the bar, and the number of patrons packed into a bar with only about five tables, we moved on.
My friends and I took a more sane path. We saw midnight at the city center, then (after the whole Cuban bar salsa-fest) we went to an Irish pub in the nearby Plaza de la Reina for a couple of hours. For me, pleasantly warmed by the bar’s beer and brandy, I went home to call family and friends in the United States.
So, while a few pictures may surface in future posts, let me just wish you a happy new year, gentle reader, and the best that this year has to offer.