Here’s How 11 Latin American Countries Celebrate New Years Eve
New Years Eve is always an exciting time. No matter where you are in the world, New Years symbolizes a fresh start, an opportunity to make important changes for the next cycle around the sun. In the US, New Years evokes visions of popping champagne, watching the ball drop in Times Square, finding someone to kiss right at midnight and partying until morning comes. But in Latin America, the traditions are quite different—and each country has its own unique take on celebrating Nochevieja.
New Years in Mexico
If you find yourself in Mexico on New Years Eve, you’ll want to have lentils on hand. Some people leave lentils outside their front door, while others indulge in lentil soup right as the clocks strikes midnight. Lentejas are thought of as a symbol for luck and prosperity, so if you’re out on the town, think about keeping some in your pocket for good measure.
New Years in Honduras
In Honduras, the Comayagua Church Bell is the center of all Nochevieja celebrations. Dating back to the 12th century, it is the oldest operating clock in the Americas, and people wait excitedly and expectantly for the clock to ring 12 times at midnight to usher in the New Year.
New Years in Panama
If you’ve ever traveled to Panama in late December, you’ve probably seen a multitude of muñecos de año viejo scattered all over the place, ready to be burned. Stuffed with dried leaves (and the occasional firecracker), these life-size dolls are dressed in old clothes and shoes and often wear wigs, serving as a symbol for what the creator wants to leave behind in the new year. They are often topical, representing political or pop culture figures.
New Years in Colombia
In Colombia, lentils are also considered good luck and muñecos de año viejo are also burned—but another Colombian traditions involves walking around the block with an empty suitcase, especially if you hope for a year full of travel and adventure!
New Years in Venezuela
Credit: Public Domain Photography
In Venezuela, like many other countries on New Years Eve, fireworks are the star of the show. Known as triqui-traquis, these Venezuelan spectacles mean business. Just look at some of these names: “fosforitos” (those tiny flash paper fireworks), “Matasuegra,” and “Tumba Rancho.”
New Years in Ecuador
In Ecuador, three candles are lit at midnight on New Years Eve: one for health, one for money, and one for love. Like many other Latin American countries, Ecuador burns muñecos de año viejo (here, they’re just referred to as año viejos) and men often dress up as women and dance through the streets, pretending to be the widows of the dolls.
New Years in Peru
Credit: Aracari Travel
On New Years Eve, Peruvians place three potatoes under a chair– one peeled, one half-peeled and one unpeeled. At midnight, one potato is chosen at random, and this potato predicts the state of next year’s finances. The peeled potato signifies bad financial fortune, half-peeled signifies a normal year, and unpeeled signifies a great bounty in the year to come. They also write down five wishes, and dipping each wish in champagne guarantees that it will come true!
New Years in Bolivia
This tradition is observed in many Latin American countries, but it is especially prevalent in Bolivia. On Nochevieja, it is imperative to wear either yellow or red underwear. Yellow underwear brings wealth and luck, and red attracts love for the wearer.
New Years in Argentina
Credit: Wander Argentina
On the last day of the year, Argentinians shred old documents and papers as a metaphor for leaving the past in the past. People then use the scraps of paper for their New Years celebrations, often tossing them from their windows all over the city in a joyful shower of confetti.
New Years in Brazil
On New Years Eve, Brasileños will often don all-white outfits. The color is meant as a symbol for peace and prosperity. Some locals will even send white flowers and candles into the ocean, as a spiritual offering made with the hope that their Nochevieja wishes will be granted.
New Years in Chile
In Chile, when drinking celebratory champagne at midnight, the key is to drop a gold ring into the glass. This token is thought to bring good luck and abundance in the year to come, and the delights of a bubbly sip of champagne also bode well for the future.
There is a lot of overlap with Nochevieja traditions in Latin America, but what is one thing that all of these countries have in common? Counting down to midnight, people all over Latin America (and Spain!) stuff their mouths with 12 grapes, each one symbolizing a wish for the new year. We hope your grapes are sweet—not sour—and that 2020 is, too!