Americans who celebrate on New Year's Eve with a bottle of champagne, party hats and a kiss at midnight have an important lesson to learn from the rest of the world (and certain regions of this country): The arrival of the new year is meant for feasting.
As the new year arrives around the globe, special cakes and breads abound, as do long noodles (representing long life), field peas (representing coins), herring (representing abundance) and pigs (representing good luck). The particulars vary, but the general theme is the same: to sit down and share a meal with family and friends to usher in a year of prosperity.
Here are some of the common traditions around the world and a few hints about where to partake in them:
While Americans watch the ball drop in Times Square on New Year's Eve, Spaniards watch the broadcast from Puerta del Sol in Madrid, where revelers gather in front of the square's clock tower to ring in the New Year. Those out in the square and those watching at home partake in an unusual annual tradition: at the stroke of midnight they eat one grape for every toll of the clock bell. Some even prep their grapes - peeling and seeding them - to make sure they will be as efficient as possible when midnight comes.
The custom began at the turn of the 20th century and was purportedly thought up by grape producers in the south with a bumper crop. Since then the tradition has spread to many Spanish-speaking nations.
Those spending New Year's Eve in Madrid should head over to the Puerta del Sol before midnight. It's a lively square, surrounded by bars, restaurants and shopping, so it's a good place to be when the new year comes.
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