New Year Traditions of Latin America

For many the beginning of a New Year is about starting a new chapter, getting a clean slate, a new opportunity to start over.  While parties and fireworks are global traditions, there are certain unique customs that have their roots in the Spanish and Latin American World.  Wearing white for New Year is one way to represent a fresh start and bring good luck. Add a splash of color with the underwear you wear. Red for love, yellow for prosperity, green for health. Do not wear black or you will be doomed throughout the coming year. Eat 12 grapes - one with each toll of the midnight strike. Each grape represents a month of the year and eating them is supposed to bring you luck. A lot of people throw in an extra grape, for extra luck. Hoping for that dream vacation? Walking around in circles with a suitcase is said to ensure a year with plenty of travel.

For a happier year, fill up a cup or bucket with water and toss it onto the front yard or out the window. This means that you will have less tears the following years. This tradition varies within countries, as in Puerto Rico it is believed that throwing the water out the window cleans the old year out. In some parts of Colombia if you throw a pan of water over your shoulder, you will be warding off all the back luck from the previous year.

Cleaning the house symbolizes ridding the house of evil spirits as you dust them away. It means starting the year fresh, with positive energy and a clean soul. However, in some places they would rather have a “dirty” house, since sweeping the house on New Year’s Eve means that you’re sweeping your luck away.

Make loud noises, with drums, rattles, beating pots and pans, fireworks and all kinds of sound producing devices. While the commotion adds to the celebration, it is also said to be caring away evil spirits and negative energies.

Another New Year’s tradition with Chilean roots involves keeping lentils around the house to ensure that the year to come is filled with prosperity and abundance. 
In Panama and other parts of Latin America, it is also customary for people to make a rag doll symbolizing the old year and burn it as the clock strikes twelve. In addition to the doll, some regions also burn photographs and other items to let go of the year behind them and make room for what’s to come.

In many places people bring flowers to the to toss into the ocean through evening celebrations. This is a tribute to Yemanja the goddess of the seas. The gifts give thanks for the year that is finishing and ask for blessings for the upcoming new year. Some go so far as to include beauty set in their tributes, including kits include soap, lipstick and powder.