12 New Year's Eve Traditions and rituals in Latin America
Updated: Sep 10
By: Rafael Nuñez.
In Latin America, there are some unique traditions or rituals that are done time before or after twelve o'clock at night to ring in the new year.
Below are the most interesting traditions and rituals that are done in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean.
1. Eating 12 grapes.
When the clock strikes twelve o'clock, people make sure to eat 12 grapes, each one for good luck in each month of the new year.
2. Wear yellow or pink Underwear.
In many countries in South American, the underwear people wear on New Year's Eve has a big impact on your year ahead. Yellow or pink underwear, for example, is thought to bring good luck or fortune in the new year.
3. Walking outside of the house with a suitcase.
Looking to travel? Many people think that walking with a suitcase, either around your home or around the block, will bring opportunities to travel in the new year. This ritual is very common in Venezuela and Colombia.
4. Burning doll.
Burning dolls (muñecos) who depict all the bad of the year and burning it represents getting rid of these bad experiences. The muñecos are displayed after Christmas and then burned in a bonfire. This ritual is common in Panama and Ecuador.
5. Singing a Carol.
In Colorado and New Mexico, it's tradition to sing a carol called "Dando los Dias" for neighbors all through the night and into January 1st. The singers are supposed to end up at the home of someone named Manuel. St. Emmanuel is the patron saint of the new year, and "Emmanuel" is also another name for Jesus Christ.
6. Handling some coins or bills.
Holding coins or bills at midnight is thought to bring a fortune in various countries of Latin America. In some countries, people put money in their shoes and in Ecuador they hide money around the house to bring prosperity in the New Year.
7. Wearing White.
In Brazil wearing new, white underwear (or dressing completely in white) while jumping seven waves and/or placing flowers into the ocean is a way to inspire good luck and fortune.
8. Cleaning the house.
Another way to settle with the past is to sweep and clean the whole house. To start the New Year fresh and clean, most people in Latin America make sure that their homes are spotless by New Year’s Eve.
9. Throwing a bucket of water out of a door or window.
Plenty of traditions surround the theme of “out with the old”. In many South America and Caribbean countries, throwing a bucket of water out of a door or window means renewal and burning the past. The water is supposed to represent the person’s tears and suffering.
10. Eating lentils.
Many meals and superstitions in Latin America revolve around lentils. The seeds symbolize prosperity and good fortune, and in many countries, they are eaten at midnight on New Year’s Eve. In Chile, people wrap 12 lentils in a money bill to improve financial wellbeing for the New Year.
11. Hanging a Lamb.
In Mexico and other Latin American countries, it's customary to hang a wool toy lamb from your front door for good fortune.
12. Predict your financial situation with potatoes.
A classic custom in Peru and Colombia is to put three potatoes under your chair or sofa to predict your financial situation for the next year: one peeled, one partially peeled and one unpeeled. At midnight you need to pick, without looking, one of the potatoes. If you choose the potato without skin, this means no money; partially skinned means a regular year and the potato with a full skin means that you will have good fortune in the New Year.
In Latin America there are many more traditions, I myself believe in some of them. These rituals are important since they help us begin the new year with hope and the drive to work harder to achieve our goals. My favorite ritual is one of the twelve grapes, for that reason, I have written only twelve traditions, perhaps writing this list will bring me good luck for the next year, and also for you, who are reading this article.
¡Feliz año nuevo para todos!