Twelve grapes

What is it about this time of year and the number twelve? In Spain and countries culturally connected to Spain, twelve grapes is a New Year tradition.

Twelve Grapes
Jacinta Lluch [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I like traditions that involve a little bit of a challenge, are nutritionally prudent, and were originally something of a marketing ploy. The Spanish tradition of twelve grapes is simple: eat twelve grapes, one for each chime of the clock at midnight of the New Year. Do it, and you’ll be assured good fortune for the coming year.

Tradition dictates that you should use the chimes of the Royal House of the Post Office clock, located in Puerta del Sol in Madrid and broadcast throughout Spain. That clock chimes every three seconds, which gives you enough time to chew and swallow… if you’re fast enough. If not, then I guess you’re ringing in the New Year with the Heimlich manoeuvre.

The Wikipedia article suggests that this tradition began in the late 19th / early 20th century CE, and was started by grape sellers who just had too many grapes. In Spain, you can buy pre-packaged sets of twelve individual grapes, which means that the marketing tradition at least is still going strong.

[Thanks to Frazer E. for suggesting this topic.]

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