On a quick trip to the supermarket during my first New Year’s Eve in Mexico City, I was puzzled by the enormous bins of red and yellow underwear that crowded the aisles of the stores. In the produce section there were copious amounts of grapes spilling out of crates, and women were grabbing and bagging them as if there would be a grape shortage. Were red undies a hip fashion statement in 1997? Were grapes in season in late December- or maybe it was popular to make wine during the holidays? When we arrived at the huge family dinner later that New Year’s Eve, the traditions were explained and I regretted not picking up some red unmentionables!
New Year’s Eve is celebrated around the world- yet each culture has it’s own traditions said to bring luck, love, or even fortune in the new year. In some cultures, friends celebrate New Year’s Eve together at restaurants, hold lavish parties, watch fireworks, or make “resolutions-” promises or goals for the new year. Like many other large cities, Mexico holds large fiestas in the main plazas of most towns- the most famous being in the Zócalo in Mexico City. For most however, New Year’s Eve is a family event, with a large, late dinner and a countdown followed by a round of hugs. Along with enjoying a long meal that includes different moles (MOE-lay: a chile, chocolate, almond sauce over chicken) and bacalao (dried salted codfish), there are several fun Mexican traditions that we have incorporated into our family’s holiday.
The first custom is the eating of “las doce uvas:” beginning at midnight, everyone must eat 12 grapes- one at a time with each of the 12 chimes of the clock. Many friends maintain that each grape represents a wish, and others say they each represent good luck for each month of the year. Our kids love this tradition, and see it as an eating contest while we’re all laughing and wiping off the accumulating sticky grape juice and getting ready to do the Heimlich in case of a choking incident.
The second tradition that we like is to wear red undies on New Year’s Eve. Normally red underwear is worn to bring love in the new year, while yellow brings monetary fortune. We tell the kids it is good luck, and the giggle knowing that under their clothes they have their secret red undies that no one can see.
The last ritual involves packing a suitcase and exiting the house, walking around the house (around the block, the driveway, etc) and then coming back into the party- this practice ensures lots of wonderful adventures and traveling in the new year! However you celebrate New Year’s Eve, I wish you health and happiness from our family to yours.
¡Feliz año nuevo! Happy New Year!