Fiesta Time: A Guide to Latine New Year's Traditions

latin new year traditions

The New Year is all about new beginnings, starting over, and reinventing yourself. Each country has its own way of celebrating New Year’s Eve, or “Nochevieja,” with rituals that can help bring closure and focus on what’s next.

Rituals, or “cábalas,” are an essential part of Latin American culture, often passed down from generation to generation, reflecting its cultural diversity and rich history. Call it manifestation, call it superstition, but what’s true is that the mind is a powerful tool capable of bringing about change in our lives through focus and willpower.

So what are you looking for this upcoming year? Your amorcito? A new job? Traveling around the world? Keeping our traditions alive is wonderful whether you genuinely believe in these rituals or are just doing them for fun! Read on to find a Latino New Year’s ritual that fits your needs.

Getting Under The Table

A popular tradition in Mexico, it may feel silly, but hey, it’s all about the intention. Plus, some people swear by it every year. Just a few seconds before the clock strikes midnight, run and hide under the table. Focus on what it is that you want for your love life. If it helps, picture yourself with your dream partner. Some people also combine this ritual with eating the 12 grapes, so make sure you bring them with you. Hopefully, you’ll soon get the tías off your back asking, “Y el novio?”

Wearing Red Underwear

Photo by Maëliss Demaison on Unsplash

Red is the color of love, romance, and passion. Wanna find your soulmate? Reignite the fire in an existing relationship? Legend says if you wear a pair of red underwear on New Year’s Eve, love will surely come your way! Regardless of whether it works, there’s something about wearing some stunning red lingerie underneath a killer outfit that could have you feeling some type of way and projecting that out to the world. Get it, girl!

Throwing Water Out The Window

Catch A Falling Star... | a bucket. | peasap |

Called “El Baldazo” in Uruguay or “El Cubazo” in Cuba, this tradition consists of throwing a bucket (or a cup if you don’t want to be wasteful) of water out to the streets to remove any bad energy still lurking inside your home. Before throwing it out, the cup of water must be passed around each area of the house. It’s believed that this way, the bad energy is collected inside the cup and cast out of your home, allowing you to welcome the new year surrounded with positive energy.

Sweeping Your House From The Inside Out

red and brown brush on white wooden tablePhoto by Bob van Aubel on Unsplash

During the first few minutes of the New Year, Chilean tradition says if you want to remove any malas vibras from your home, you must sweep the house from the inside out. It doesn’t have to be tedious, though (it probably won’t work if you’re cleaning the house grumpily anyway). Instead, have everyone bring a broom and make it a family ritual! Blast some cumbias, have fun with it, dump any dust or trash in a trashcan outside your house, and you’re off to a clean, fresh start.

Throwing Last Year’s Calendar Out The Window

In countries like Argentina and Uruguay, calendars and old documents are shredded and thrown out the window, a gesture that symbolizes getting rid of the old and making space for the new. Even office workers participate in it! If throwing paper out the window is not an option (you might get fined for it in the U.S.), burning them in a fire-safe container is also a great way to symbolically say goodbye to everything you don’t need anymore. Adiós a lo que no te sirve!

Burning An Effigy

File:Quema de años viejos (15979407538).jpg - Wikimedia

Or a mini version of one, anyway. In Ecuador, burning effigies, also known as “Años Viejos,” is believed to destroy all the negative things that went on over the past year and bring about good luck and happiness for the next. Some Ecuadorians construct life-size papier-mâché dolls made to look like famous people or political figures, or just buy any old cartoon character piñata and then throw a block party where it will be set on fire at midnight.

Burning may seem like an act of anger, but it’s a symbolic way of closing a chapter in one’s life and celebrating the birth of a new one. It’s a deeply meaningful tradition for Ecuadorians that has been adopted in other countries like Uruguay, Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, and Venezuela.

Using Lentejas to Attract Abundance

Lentil Soup | 33/365 - February 2, 2010 Recipe here | Emily Carlin

In many cultures around the world, lentils, with their coin-like shape, are a symbol of abundance and prosperity. In Latin America, there are all kinds of ways lentils are used to manifest financial stability for the upcoming year. Some will eat a bowl of sopa de lentejas at midnight, others plant them, and others stuff their purses and wallets with them. Rice is also a popular grain used to represent prosperity. However you want to do it, just make sure you have enough grains in your pantry!

Gifting A Sheep

Ceramic sheep | 🇩🇪Professional Photographer 🔴Twitch Chess… |

A tradition commonly seen in Mexico, sheep are associated with abundance and good fortune. Who couldn’t use some extra “lana” in their life? It is said that receiving a decorative sheep as a gift, or giving one, will bring luck and prosperity! It has to be a gift, though. Otherwise, the magia is broken. Afterward, you’ll have to hang or display it near the door, calling the money into your home. There’s even a mantra you can recite to supercharge your good luck sheep, it goes “Borreguito de la montaña, has que con tu lana junte dinero cada mañana.”

Eating 12 Grapes

12 Grapes Before Midnight | Chris Oakley |

Arguably the most widely practiced of all, this tradition is said to have originated in Spain dating back from at least 1895. While in other cultures, they’ll be cheering with a glass of champagne as the clock strikes midnight, you’ll find Latinos having a quiet, rather intense moment as they focus on eating 12 grapes and assigning a special wish for each one. You’re supposed to eat them at each strike of the clock before midnight for maximum effectiveness. But no rush, mija. Better safe than sorry!

Writing What You Want, Then Burning It

person burning paperPhoto by Devin Avery on Unsplash

Write down your wishes, things you want to accomplish, or things you want to change in the upcoming year on 12 separate pieces of paper. After you’re done writing, burn them in a safe container. In Chile, this is a powerful way of manifesting these thoughts into reality. Use this as a chance to reflect on the past year, let go of anything you don’t want to take with you going forward, and focus on what you really want. It can be very cathartic.

Running Around the Block with a Suitcase

Popular in Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, and Puerto Rico, this tradition involves dusting off a suitcase and taking it for a ride around the block! Bonus points if your family sends you off as if you’re actually going on an around-the-world trip. Legend says this will guarantee a year filled with new places, people, and experiences! It might look funny to the neighbors, but joke’s on them. You’ll be too busy traveling the world to care.

Bonus: Make Your Chonies Work For You!

clothes on drying rodPhoto by Emile Guillemot on Unsplash

This list couldn’t be complete without a quick run-down of the most popular underwear colors and what they claim to attract. Whether it’s love, money, or health, put your calzones to work this New Year’s Eve!

  • Red: Attracts love, romance, and passion. Wear them if el amor de tu vida is taking too long.
  • Yellow: Bring money, prosperity, abundance, and financial stability into your life. Put them on to keep those dollars coming.
  • White: Represents peace, harmony, and calmness. Could be helpful for those with a hectic lifestyle who just want to chill.
  • Black: Associated with luxury, power, and sexuality. Get those alpha Latina vibes flowing and attract everything you want, girl!
  • Green: The color of health, good luck, and protection. Wear them for all-around good fortune!
  • Blue: Believed to bring balance and stability. Good for making that elusive personal project come to life or getting that job you always wanted.

Our traditions are an essential part of who we are and a reminder of where we come from, timeless gifts given to us by our tatarabuelos. That said, we can always create our own rituals and pass them down for generations to come! What New Year’s ritual does your familia do every year? We’d love to hear it. Tag us on Instagram @theluzmedia.

Feliz Año Nuevo from the Luz Team!

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