New Year’s Eve gets lost in the Christmas rush. My mental time-space collapses the 6 days following Christmas and throws me on the footstep of a new year unprepared as ever and as ready as I’ll ever be. Words to live by. I’ve had some good and some super lame new year celebrations around the world. My best recollections always involve being in a warm place with people I love. All things considered, I recommend being in Madrid for New Year’s Eve. Eat the grapes, wear a wig, and prepare to make night long friends!
Suit up … or don’t I’m a low cost airline flyer. That means I don’t check luggage and I don’t take nice things on holidays. One pair of shoes is my max (unless of course flip flops are required) and I don’t find much value in “looking pretty” while I travel. So when my Spanish friends started talking suits and heels dress codes, I knew my boyfriend and I were going to take a slightly different course for the evening. If you want to hit the clubs, dress for the occasion. For those who aren’t into the club scene, or the look-at-my-sexy-NYE-outfit scene, or are just a little bit lazy (guilty of all three) the streets of Madrid have plenty to offer you.
Get a family invite In many European countries (at least my experience in Spain and Czech Republic) New Year’s Eve is a time for family. Friends come after midnight. In America, I would argue that NYE is nearly exclusively about friends and parties … or banging pots and pans with the under 10 crowd. In Spain, Noche Vieja, or New Year’s Eve dinner, is a big deal and is meant to be spent with family. The younger ones usually keep the party going at a club, private party or discotheque. Refer to suiting up above.
Get a view in Puerta del Sol This is where it all goes down. If you didn’t get that family invite, don’t worry, this is where the party’s at. You will be treated a bit like cattle, so it’s no surprise that many prefer to watch the broadcast from home. La Puerta del Sol is the Time Square of NYE in Spain and the place where everyone tunes in to ring in the new year. We decided to throw safety out the window and instead scale scaffolding to get a view and rise above the herds. It was kind of stupid, but well worth it.
Eat 12 grapes This is perhaps the most enjoyable way to spend the first 12 seconds of any new year. As the Spanish tradition goes, las doce uvas de la suerte (the 12 grapes of luck) must be consumed to the beat of the Puerta del Sol tower clock which strikes 12 times at midnight. Each bell and each grape properly consumed grants you another month of prosperity, happiness, and good fortune in the coming year. There are many ways to consume the grapes. Here are the basic consumption profiles:
1. The Skilled Eater: this is not your first rodeo. 12 grapes in 12 seconds? Make it bananas and only then will you be challenged. You pop each grape in your mouth in precise unison with the bells. You are rare and skilled my friend.
2. The Paranoid Spoiler: you fear that you will not be able to accomplish such an important task in such a small span of time. You cheat by starting too early and eat more than one grape at a time. You only cheat yourself, for luck will not follow. Calm down and don’t fear choking.
3. The Image Conscious Party Pooper: you suck. You fear that your lipstick will smudge and you will start the new year off with a grape stain on your fresh pressed blouse. No pain, no gain (I hate that phrase, but find it appropriate here). Just eat the damn grapes.
4. The Drunken Shover: you want to keep pace with the bells, but you are so busy laughing you end up spewing grapes everywhere and starting the new year unsure if you ate the grapes or not. Were they even grapes? What happened to my wig?
5. The Practicer: unlike the skilled eater, the 12 grape task is something you fear. To minimize the fear, you must practice before hand. This takes away some of the thrill, but it makes you feel good when all 12 grapes are consumed on time and in comfort.
6. The Performer: you toss the grapes up and make a game of catching them. This does require a bit of pre-night practice, but you accept the consequences of failure.
7. The Chipmunk: your cheeks are your tool. You ‘eat’ but don’t consume the grapes one at a time. When you’re on the verge of spewing out 12 months of luck, your powerful jaw chomps down to create a nice gulp of grape juice. Down they go (this is my style).
Make night long friends Life long friends can be made too, but it’s more likely that you will spend New Year’s Eve in Madrid with awesome, drunk, funny, adventurous people. You will bond. You will laugh. You will cry. But then you will probably never see each other again. The streets of Madrid are filled with revealers of all sorts and you can join the party. After the grapes, we spent the next 6 hours hopping from street party to street party, pub to dance floor to open square. Having no destination until …
Eat churros and chocolate in the morning At 6am sharp, chocolate and churro places open for business. They are packed, lines out the door, but you must persist. This is the perfect way to end the night with your new buddies. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to wear a wig. How do you like to spend New Year’s Eve? At home with friends and family? Traveling? On your couch?