Thousands of people enthusiastically greeted the New Year eating their 12 grapes to the sound of the Puerta del Sol clock striking midnight, amid the clamor of congratulations, best wishes and, in particular, hopes that the crisis was behind them, or at least that 2013 won't be any worse than 2012.

Many wore funny wigs, caps, hats and costumes of all kinds, and poured out a joyous welcome to the New Year, which would be celebrated an hour later in the Canary Islands.

Those gathered in Madrid's famous plaza, and the hundreds of thousands who watched it all on television, had three seconds to eat each of their "good luck" grapes as the stroke of midnight separated the old year from the new.

Watching to see that everything went off like clockwork were master clockmakers Pedro and Santiago Ortiz and Jesus Lopez-Terradas, responsible for maintenance of the venerable timepiece.

The clock was made in London and was donated by the liberal from Leon, Jose Rodriguez Losada, who had been exiled to London when King Ferdinand VII imposed an autocratic regime. It was placed in the tower of the Casa de Correos, now seat of the regional Madrid government in the Puerta del Sol, and was inaugurated on Nov. 19, 1866.

As they do every year, local officials made several bus lines take a detour so as not to run into the crowds in the downtown plaza. EFE