nos van a dar las uvas

“They’re going to give us the grapes.”

This phrase doesn’t really make much sense if you don’t know a bit about Spanish customs.

We’re not talking about any kind of grape here. We’re talking about the twelve grapes that the Spanish take in front of the television at 12am on New Year’s Eve. I imagine they’re also eaten in those households without television, but the New Year’s Eve special on TV is quite a big deal and watching “Las Campanadas” is quite a tradition in Spain.

It’s very simple. After a big meal with family, everyone has in front of them a bowl of grapes. Twelve grapes, or, if you’re like me, maybe twelve halves – there’s no way I can swallow a grape every second. Oh, and I also peel them and take out the stones.

So, usually after the over the top excitement of some glamorous presenter, the reloj de la Puerta del Sol in Madrid takes up the whole television and the dongs begin. But don’t be fooled. First you have los cuartos. These are the quick chimes which warn you that there is a quarter of a minute to go before your first grape. Then the real stuff begins.

For every dong, ingest a grape you must. (Sorry for the strange sintax, but this happens to me when I talk about traditions…) Then when you’ve finished your twelve grapes, that’s it, you’re ready to welcome the new year.

Some people add their little traditions, like my uncle who gets up on a chair so that he can step onto the ground with his right foot, to start the year “con buen pie”, in good footing.

When I was writing the A to z, I didn’t find an explanation for this tradition, but times have moved on and now, in the blog of Directo al Paladar, I found this explanation.

Before I share their explanation with you, I need to refer to another tradition, the Noche de Reyes, which is the evening of the 5th Januart, before Twelfth Night, when children eagerly wait for the arrival of the Three Kings. The Three Kings bring sacks of joy, well sacks of presents to those children who have behaved well during the previous year – or sacks of coal if they have misbehaved.

So, in 1882, the mayor of the city of Madrid, decided to tax those people who wanted to spend the night of the 5th January partying. In protest, those who couldn’t afford to pay a good times tax, came out during New Year’s Eve, into the Puerta del Sol, which is where the Town Hall is, and took the piss out of the burgois who had imported from Germany and France the custom of taking champagne and grapes at Christmas.
And that is why thousands of people congregate at New Years Eve in the Plaza Mayor, come rain , or shine, or snow, to eat the uvas.

So, that was the background story you need to know to understand that Nos van a dar las uvas, means that something is going to take ages to take place. It implies that you’re going to have to wait until the 31st December, when you would take your grapes.


Expressions used:

salir de marcha – to go out partying
mega-cena – not a proper expression, mega, as in “big” dinner

photo credit: AHMED… via photopin cc

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