If you’ve ever been invited to a Mexican New Year’s Eve party, then you’ve likely seen Mexicans shoveling grapes into their mouths hurriedly before the ball drops on New Year’s Eve. To anyone who has ever seen this ritual, you have no doubt wondered Why do Mexicans eat grapes on New Year’s Eve?
Eating grapes on New Year’s Eve isn’t originally Mexican. It comes from Spain. Known as las doce uvas de la suerte (the 12 lucky grapes), Spanish eat a grape for every stroke of the bell at midnight on the 31st while it rings in the new year.
This tradition is surprisingly young, dating back to 1909—with evidence for the ritual dating back at least to 1895. Though it seems that eating grapes on New Year’s Eve was a relatively obscure custom before 1909, it was popularized as a custom when vineyards in Alicante used the ritual as a way to sell more grapes after a bountiful harvest that year.
Since then, it has spread to many Latin American countries and even the Philippines. However, eating grapes on New Year’s Eve in Mexico is especially prominent.
New Year’s Eve (or Nochevieja in Spanish) is a sacred time in Mexico. It is at this time that people eat their grapes, usually in one of two places: they are either gathering around the town square to eat grapes, or they are eating grapes on New Year’s Eve in their homes after their family dinner.
There are two general meanings for the eating of the twelve grapes. The first meaning is more common in Spain—but it can be found in Mexico. It states that each grape symbolizes a month in the coming year (January, February, March. . . and so on).
If the grape is sour, that month will be sour. If the grape is sweet, that month will be sweet. So you might want to buy grapes ahead of time and then you can ensure that they have a chance to ripen before New Year’s Eve!
The other tradition is the more common one in Mexico. It states that you get twelve grapes and each one is a wish. You silently think to yourself of some facet of your life that you want to improve in the coming year.
Maybe you want a better relationship or a stronger career. Perhaps you want someone that you love to better their health. Whatever your desires, you get to wish them while you’re eating grapes on New Year’s Eve in Mexico during those 12 seconds.
Don’t think that it’s easy though! It’s hard to eat all 12 grapes in only 12 seconds. If you can’t finish them, don’t try and overdo it. There’s no need to choke or panic over a superstitious tradition, and hardly anyone finishes all 12 grapes.
Besides, half the joke is knowing that you’re going to start laughing as soon as the grapes start piling up inside your mouth. Don’t worry, eating grapes on New Year’s Eve in Mexico supposed to be fun!
Of course, some people try and develop different strategies for how to eat the grapes in time. After all, you only get one chance to get these 12 lucky grapes that superstition has it will grant your wishes.
The most important thing about eating grapes on New Years Eve in Mexico is to not take it too seriously. Take a chance to just enjoy yourself because, after all, it’s New Year’s Eve!
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For several years, Rafael has been crafting articles to help expats and nomads in their journey abroad. He takes great pride in meticulously researching the ins-and-outs of bureaucratic processes in different countries around the world. A digital nomad for almost a decade, Rafael also enjoys exploring cultural phenomena in his articles to better help expats and nomads assimilate. If you have any questions or issues with the content of an article, he’s the one to contact for further information.