8 Traditions to Ring in the New Year, Latino-Style

8 Traditions to Ring in the New Year, Latino-Style

Learn more about 8 New Year’s traditions that Latinos around the world celebrate!


By: Erin Raub

Once upon a time, our pre-Columbian ancestors celebrated the New Year with rites, rituals and traditions that revolved around nature, the gods and the cosmos. Fast-forward a few centuries and today, the Latin New Year – la Nochevieja, or Noche Buena de Año Nuevo, depending on where you’re from – is a little different.

For today’s Latinos, the New Year is all about family, celebration and good luck. In fact – and uncommon for Latino customs – there are quite a few good luck traditions that carry over from country to country, jumping borders to unite us in our quest for a year of luck, love and prosperity.

So here are some New Year’s traditions that you and your family can start, add or continue for your annual celebración!

Shared Tradition: The 12 Grapes
If we’re going to pick one go-to tradition for the Latino New Year’s Eve, it’s that of the 12 grapes. This one is thought to trace back to Spain, where vineyards distributed their surplus grape harvest; consumption was considered to bring good luck. Today, Latinos carry on this tradition by eating 12 grapes – one for each month – as the clock strikes midnight and rings in the New Year.

Shared Tradition: Sweep Away Bad Energy
This one’s not quite as fun as the others but at the very least, you’ll love the way your house looks on New Year’s Day! On December 31, grab your Swiffer WetJet and Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to give your home a thorough cleaning. This is meant to symbolically sweep out the bad energy of the past year, and usher in good things for the new.

Moving on, let’s visit a few of the country-specific traditions we Latinos hold near and dear:

Argentina: Red Undergarments
Legend says that if you wear red (or yellow, depending on the country) undergarments as the year flips from old to new, then you’ll find love in the new year.

Chile: Eat Your Lentils
In Chile (and a few other countries), families prepare a bowl of lentils for their Nochevieja meal. Everyone must take a spoonful, in order to enjoy good luck in the new year.

Colombia: An Empty Suitcase for Full Travels
In Colombia, as well as a few other countries, revelers hit the streets to do a lap with an empty suitcase. The tradition is said to bring a year full of travels.

Costa Rica: The Santa Lucía Flower
A tiny purple wildflower, known in Costa Rica as Santa Lucía, is said to bring good luck. Pick one, dry it and carry it in your wallet for a year of prosperity.

Guatemala: 12¢ in the Window
Place 12 cents in the window with its back to the road, and you’ll enjoy wealth in the year to come.

Puerto Rico: Throw Water at the Door
Fill up all your pots and pans with water, then throw water at the doors at midnight. Good luck is yours in the year to come!

So tell us, what are your favorite New Year’s traditions? As for me, I’ll be the one with the clean house, my belly full of grapes and lentils, wearing red undergarments and running around the block with an empty suitcase while searching for a Santa Lucía flower. Happy New Year!

Erin Raub is a bilingual mom, writer and passionate reader, who makes her home in the cool mountains of Costa Rica (via Philadelphia). Together with her husband and young son, she explores the world through travel, books, cuisine, traditions and dance. Erin works as a writer, primarily as a blogger and travel copywriter, specializing in website copy and marketing materials for the tourism industry.

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