El Año Nuevo celebrates the arrival of the New Year and la Nochevieja says goodbye to the old. In much of the Spanish-speaking world, traditions include making a toast, exchanging a kiss or hug, or eating twelve grapes—one for each stroke of midnight—to ensure your wishes come true for the New Year. Other good luck traditions include wearing yellow or red, eating a tablespoon of lentils, or carrying a suitcase around the block if you hope to take a trip. To wish someone a happy New Year, say ¡Feliz año nuevo! or ¡Próspero año nuevo!
On Nochevieja, there are also traditions for saying goodbye to the old year. Some people dress in masks representing el año viejo. Others build satirical figures called los años viejos that represent famous people or politicians. Adorned with poems or messages that poke fun at el año viejo, and filled with shavings and firecrackers, these figures are lit on fire at midnight, to burn and explode on street corners, as a final despedida, or farewell, to the old year.

Vocabulario para celebrar
el Año Nuevo New Year
el brindis toast
las doce uvas twelve grapes
las lentejas lentils
la medianoche midnight
la Nochevieja New Year’s Eve


What traditions of the Spanish-speaking world do you think are fun to welcome the New Year?

La buena suerte In Lima, people believe touching a Chinese Lion brings happiness, good luck, and prosperity in the New Year. Ten percent of Peru’s population is of Chinese descent.

La medianoche In Madrid, people gather in the Puerta del Sol, holding bags of 12 grapes as they wait for the 12 strokes of midnight from the Puerta del Sol clock, the city’s official timekeeper.

Baile de los Gigantes In Antigua, people celebrate the New Year with the folkloric “Dance of the Giants.” These giant heads, or cabezudos, are similar to costumes used since the medieval period in Spain.

Paseo de los años viejos In Popayán, families and neighbors take their año viejo figures out for a final ride before the Nochevieja celebration. Later on, at midnight, they will burn the figures.
  1.   How do you celebrate the New Year? Does your family or community have any special traditions? Are any of the traditions similar to the ones in Spanish-speaking countries? How are they similar or different?
  2.   If you were to build an año viejo representing the past year, what figure or event would you portray? Explain your choice.