Every year on December 31st, my mother would place 13 grapes in a plastic cup for each person coming over to our house to celebrate New Year’s Eve. That morning, she would buy us ugly yellow polyester underwear for me and my two sisters to wear that evening.
My mom would spend the day sweeping, making sure she rang in the New Year with a house cleansed of dirt and evil spirits. At midnight, she would grab a suitcase and lug it around the block. “I want to travel a lot next year,” she would say giddily. Fortunately for her, we lived in Miami so she didn’t have to brave the bitter cold to carry out her New Year’s ritual.
We hated wearing the uncomfortable underwear she would buy us (we would discard it the next day since we always had to wear new ones the following year) and while the grapes were fine we’d be annoyed that, despite the assurances every year that she did it right this time, she buy us pitted grapes so we’d spend the next 15 minutes spitting out the seeds.
But wearing the underwear and eating the grapes meant we’d have good luck the following year, so we begrudgingly abided – and still do.
Latin Americans are all about traditions and superstitions, particularly on the last day of the year, when they believe what they do at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve has large implications the following year.
Brazilians jump in the ocean, Mexicans sweep their home, Panamanians have “muñecos,” Colombians blow up effigies – Latinos from every country in Latin America have a custom they cling to when they arrive in the United States.
Here are some traditions and superstitions us Latinos abide by – no matter how absurd or ridiculous they seem. Besides, giving them up could bring you bad luck.