Why New Year’s in Spain starts with eating 12 grapes

When Javier Vallès Osborne was a boy in Barcelona, he struggled to cram, chew, and swallow 12 grapes, one every two seconds, at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

“It was una p—a,” says Vallès, speaking in Spanish and using a word best left unprinted, which essentially means it was effing hard. “The grapes were super big and with seeds. I didn’t want to eat the seeds, but it had to be the whole thing.”

Vallès was simply following in the tradition, celebrated across Spain, of eating one grape with each chime of the clock tower of the Royal Post Office in Plaza del Sol, a central square of Madrid. Much like Americans might watch the ball drop at midnight in Times Square, Spaniards tune to the country’s capital for the 12 chimes of the clock.

Tradition has it that each chime represents a month of the year, and that consuming all 12 grapes at each chime of the clock on nochevieja — which means the night of the old, outgoing year — will bring good luck in the year to come.

“You have to swallow everything,” Vallès says. “If you end up with grapes left in your mouth, you will

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