Have you ever wondered where the tradition of eating the lucky grapes on New Years Eve at the Puerta del Sol comes from? It is most likely that, every 31st of December you take part of this funny ritual, but the truth is that not too many people know the origin of this ancient tradition. And the truth is that it is as curious as it is interesting.
Although there are many rumours, there are two theories that explain the origin of this tradition. The first dates back to 1882, when the mayor of Madrid at the time, José Abascal and Corredano, issued a municipal order tired of the locals that would celebrate the night of the 5th of January to party and get drunk, with the excuse of the arrival of the Three Kings.
His idea was to impose a fee of 5 pesetas to everyone who came out to celebrate on the street that night. In response, some citizens outraged at having been deprived of a night of partying and celebration, decided to go out and celebrate the New Year on the night of the 31st of December. They decided to do so by imitating ironically the bourgeoisie tradition of eating grapes with champagne during New Years dinner.
This way, these neighbours gathered on New Years Eve at the Puerta del Sol to eat grapes at the sound of the clocks chimes. They never imagined that this protest would be continued in the following years, growing in numbers year by year, until it became one of the most popular traditions.
The second theory states that this tradition grew strong in 1909, when a group of farmers decided to take advantage of the excess production of grapes of that year. If it really was such their intention, the fact is that it turned out pretty well, because nowadays almost everyone in Spain celebrates the New Year eating the traditional lucky grapes.
In any case, eating the lucky grapes has become a deeply rooted and fun tradition in Spain. There is nothing like getting together with family and friends on that night, to see who manages to swallow the twelve grapes to the sound of the chimes. By the way, did you know that the end of year bells ring every three seconds instead of every second? It is a relief, because we don’t want anyone choking while attempting it.
If you visit the capital of Spain during Christmas to wish farewell to the year in the Puerta del Sol, we recommend that you stay at one of the many Petit Palace hotels in Madrid, from where you can conveniently travel around the central neighbourhood of the Puerta del Sol and Madrid’s Gran Via