New year, new you, right? Well, maybe not exactly but it’s that time of year again when we celebrate el fin de un año, y el comienzo de uno nuevo (the end of one year, and the start of a new one).

Here at Hablamos, we love taking part in the traditional New Year festivities here in Madrid, so we thought we’d tell you a little bit about them, and some of those from other countries in el mundo hispano (the Spanish-speaking world)

Los propósitos de Año Nuevo

Before we talk about all the partying, let’s take a moment to focus on how we can become better people in 2023. OK, that’s a slight exaggeration, but it is the idea behind los propósitos de año nuevo (New Year’s Resolutions). In a lot of the world, el año nuevo (New Year) is a time when nos prometemos (we promise ourselves) that we’ll change something about our lives and start to make some little improvements. A good one, if you’re going to come here to study Spanish, would be to say that you’ll take one of our online or face-to-face Spanish courses! We’ll look at some other common resolutions in another blog too!


On the night of Nochevieja (New Year’s Eve), the Spanish like to celebrate with their families by having yet another huge cena (dinner) often consisting of pescado y mariscos (fish and seafood) or sometimes cordero lechal (lamb) or pato (duck). This varies between different regions, with the north opting more for seafood and the south more meat-based. 

After dinner, it’s party time! The Spanish tend to go out for New Year more than people in other countries given the tendency towards a more outdoor social life. In Madrid, where Hablamos is based, people fill the central Puerta del Sol and gather around to see and listen to the campanadas (chimes) at medianoche (midnight) which ring out from the Casa de Correos (the building housing the Presidency of the Comunidad de Madrid). This event is broadcast live on national television too, and has been a tradition in the capital since el siglo XIX (the 19th century).

While you’re here learning Spanish, you’ll also need to tomar las doce uvas (eat the 12 grapes) at midnight on Nochevieja (New Year’s Eve). For each of the 12 campanadas (chimes) of midnight, Spaniards eat 1 grape. It doesn’t sound too difficult, but imagine trying to finish each one before having to eat the next! There are even special packs of grapes you can buy which are sin pipas (seedless) and sometimes even peladas (peeled). If you’ve never done this tradition before, we’d definitely recommend getting these ones as it takes some practice to get good at eating 12 proper grapes in such a short space of time! The origin of the idea of eating 12 grapes has various theories, although most suggest that it started being a thing in the late 19th or early 20th century. Since then, it has also spread to other parts of el mundo hispano (the Spanish-speaking world).


Apart from grape eating, the Mexican people have some of their own tradiciones (traditions) when it comes to el Año Nuevo (New Year). In some parts of the country, people queman una muñeca (burn a doll) to say goodbye to the previous year, while others rompen una vajilla de barro (break a clay pot) to then start using a new one for the new year. Curious, right?


Peruvians have a long tradition of big parties to celebrate the New Year, while wearing prendas íntimas de color amarillo (yellow underwear) to mark the occasion. Lots of people also take part in una cábala (a ritual) to bring good luck. For instance, in certain parts of the country people go for a walk around la manzana (the block) with una maleta vacía (an empty suitcase) so they can have the opportunity to go travelling. Other people echan arroz bajo el marco de la puerta de la casa (throw rice under the doorframe of the main door to their house) to see if they can get married soon! 


In Colombia, putting una espiga de trigo (an ear of wheat) on the table during the cena de nochevieja (New Year’s Eve dinner) is done to bring good luck for the coming year. Colombia also shares the tradition of burning dolls which are made of ropa vieja, guasca de plátano y pólvora (old clothes, banana skin and gunpowder). This explosive mix is then set alight just outside (thankfully!) the front door of their homes while everyone se abraza (hugs each other) and wishes for happiness in the New Year.

Obviously, that’s just a few of the different traditions for New Year in the Spanish-speaking world. When you’re learning Spanish, you should always find out more about the culture of the countries whose language you’re learning, and these universal celebrations are a great way to do that. So from us here at Hablamos, os deseamos un feliz y próspero año nuevo (we wish you a happy and prosperous New Year) and we hope to see you soon to help you on your Spanish learning journey. ¡Feliz 2023!

Hablamos - full-on Spanish!