For years growing up my mother would tell me that New Years is a family celebration. This was quite contrary to the American partying tradition that I was exposed to every year. For years this has been a minor debate, yet a debate none-the-less. So the question is party-time or family-time? Also what are some other Latino traditions?…
The answer for Latin America is both and it just depends on where you are. In some countries like Argentina and Costa Rica, New Years is family time. In Ecuador, people take to the streets and party it up at the discotequas… And in some places, like much of Mexico and Spain, you begin the evening with your family perhaps even at another family’s house. Then after midnight (once you’ve eaten all of your grapes), you party up the remainder of the night.
When Latin America was colonized by Spain and Portugal, a number of Native American traditions mixed with the Spanish and Portugese ones. Below are some of my favorite New Year’s traditions that epitomize the Latino New Year’s traditions:
12 grapes… This tradition originally comes from Spain. Make sure to eat 12 grapes and to make 12 wishes with each one. In Mexico, one downs a grape with each of the twelve chimes of the bell during the midnight countdown.
Wearing underwear of a certain color. In my Argentine family we’ve always worn red underwear, por amor y suerte. Typically, however, blue underwear is worn in Argentina to signify prosperity. In Mexico, yellow is the color of choice and in Mexico yellow is worn to signify luck with money or happiness (depends on who you ask) in the coming year.
The luggage run… So I did this last year at a 2010/2011 New Year’s celebration and guess what? I traveled more than I ever have! In 2011 I visited 11 countries on 4 continents… Which means that this one must work! Originally, the tradition comes from Costa Rica but is now celebrated across Mexico, Central America, and much of the South Western United States too.
Swimming… This one is from my beloved Argentina, especially along the coasts. In Puerto Rico this is also common and I’ve even heard of certain PR coastal towns that practice running to the beach backwards and then jumping into the water backwards as well.
Toasting with a bill of high value is also another way to ensure luck with money in the coming year.