Knickers off at New Year

The best moment of the festive season thus far was provided by Gloria, our resident and somewhat glamorous Colombian team member. Standing by the tills in Homebase holding an enormous bunch of mistletoe over her head, she was innocently asking the purpose of this funny plant. In the background were a lot of rather hopeful looking Christmas shoppers.

In an effort to even up the cultural scorecard, here?s our quick guide to the festive season in Spain & Latin America.

The most obvious difference is that Christmas as we know it doesn?t happen. Christmas Eve is when families come together for their big celebratory dinner. The 25th December is usually therefore a rather slow day, much like our Boxing Day. Gifts are exchanged not on Christmas Day but on Epiphany, 12th Night if you prefer. Though the running order is different the essential content of these days is recognisably similar. It?s New Year?s Eve where our cultures part ways.

While we are singing Auld Lang Syne, in much of South America, the New Year is best welcomed whilst wearing yellow underwear. It brings you luck and prosperity apparently. If you are going the whole hog, wear them inside out before midnight then switch them round at midnight.  In Spain, it?s red knickers that do the trick.

Common to both Spain and Latin America is that you have to eat a single grape between each of the midnight chimes in order to bring luck for the year ahead. This quite simple task is massively complicated if you attempt to switch your knickers round at the same time.

One of my personal favourites comes from back in South America. If your desires for the coming year include travel then pop your suitcases by the door. When midnight comes, go for a walk around the garden with your empty bags.

In the same vein of self-fulfilling prophecy is the tradition of stuffing your pockets with cash in order to be richer in the New Year.

Perhaps a less theft prone idea to attract wealth is to drop a ring into your glass of champagne.

Possibly the most bonkers, is for anyone who wants to get married in the coming year. Simply head to the nearest church and, as the New Year rings in, stand up and sit down with each chime. Job done.

A rather lovely tradition from the high Andes is to make papier maché dolls representing all the bad things which have happened in the previous 12 months. At midnight you burn them in order to leave them in the past. For the arts & crafts averse, simply write down the bad things on a piece of paper and burn those.

Elsewhere, coloured candles bring luck for the coming year. Blue candles bring peace, yellow brings abundance, red passion and green health. White candles bring clarity and orange, perhaps most ambitiously, bring intelligence.

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