Growing up in Venezuela was a completely different experience than the one my kids are having growing up in the United States.
Our childhood home was filled with people celebrating and dancing the night away every Christmas' Eve, Christmas' Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. December was by far the busiest time of the year for parties at our house. My mom made sure we had enough food and drinks to feed an army, Christmas decorations were in every corner of the house, all décor was placed in the beginning of December by a family friend, Miguel, who is a decorator/florist now living in Panama. Everyone around our block was invited along with other family friends.
On New Year's Eve, the celebration usually started around 8 or 9 PM, when people started arriving with bottle in hand and ready to party! We all had dinner together, which included (of course! you'll see why below) lentils, rice and lots of champagne (and whiskey! My mom and dad's favorite liquor). We would then talk and some people would dance until the Midnight "cañonazo" (cannon shot) to mark the end of the old year and the beginning of a fresh new one.
As Venezuelan we have lots of superstitions and traditions but the ones we do for New Year's Eve are by far the most popular ones that should know about!
Here are the 12 traditions that you won't miss on any Venezuelan home on New Year's Eve and why we do them. Don't miss #12, I saved the best for last!!
1. The Lentils
For prosperity in the new year. Some people prefer to eat them during dinner, others opt for holding a handful of uncooked lentils right at midnight.
2. The Suitcase
A suitcase filled with vacation clothing to bring lots of travel in the new year to it's owner, it's believed that the longer you walk around the street (yes! you can't just walk with the suitcase around the house), the longer your trips will be so of course! this is something that no matter where I am, there will always be a suitcase ready to go at 12AM!
3. Champagne and Music
The "cañonazo" marks the beginning of the new year and it's a tradition to have a toast with a glass of champagne (now days, with whatever you have in hand!) while listening to traditional music like "Faltan cinco pa' las doce" by Nestor Zavarce played usually a few minutes before midnight and followed by "Año Nuevo” by La Billos Caracas Boys.
4. The 12 Grapes
12 grapes must be eaten for every second during the last 12 second countdown to midnight, making a wish for each grape eaten. Some families play the recording of the poem by Andrés Eloy Blanco “Las uvas del tiempo" (The grapes of time) to listen while doing this tradition.
5. Money in the Pockets
Having money (preferably local and foreign money) in your pocket while welcoming the new year at midnight, is believed to bring prosperity and wealth in the new year.
6. The Yellow Undies!
Wearing yellow color underwear to bring prosperity and wealth in the new year.
7. The Red Undies!
Wearing red color underwear to bring love and find a new life partner in the new year.
8. Wearing Underwear Backwards
To bring all good things and scare away bad vibes and envy.
8. Clean House
Cleaning the house starting inside and making your way outside, rinsing it fully with water to remove bad energies.
9. Throw Rice and Lentils
Throwing rice and/or lentils up in the air for good luck (so much for cleaning the house, right!?)
10. Wishes to the Sky
Some families write wishes in a piece of paper and gather to send them to the sky in a paper lantern.
11. The Kiss
Kissing your partner at midnight to solidify your love. If you are single, you would need to hug someone else to find love.
12. The Chair
Climbing up and down a chair 12 times during the last 12 seconds countdown to midnight is believed to bring a new love in the new year. Can you imagine having to climb a chair every second while holding a handful of lentils AND eating a grape while climbing the chair each time AND have a champagne glass ready to toast at midnight as quickly as possible so you can then get out the door to run around your block like a crazy person dragging a suitcase? Well I've seen it!
Cheers and Happy New Year, may 2021 be a better year for all of us!