Spain's Buffet Of New Year's Celebrations

Even with the economic crisis looming over the country, Spaniards still excel at celebrations.
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I recently asked a group of Spanish teenagers what they typically do on New Year´s Eve. The consensus seemed to be enjoying the evening at home with family then running off to be with their friends when the clock strikes twelve.

Even with the economic crisis looming over the country, Spaniards still excel at celebrations. However, the dichotomy between old and new ways of living in Spain are never so apparent as on New Year's Eve. Some spend the night at home, eating a traditional feast while others, like in the natives in the northern Asturias region, meet at local restaurants and then go dancing. Many young people wear costumes and head for the town centers of Madrid or Barcelona to catch firework displays. Then they party until sunrise.

However you like to spend your New Year's, here are a few year-end festivities to celebrate, including some Spanish traditions that have lasted for hundreds of years.

Day of the Innocents
Historically, this day is known in the Bible as the Massacre of the Innocents, when King Herod the Great ordered the execution of all young male children in the village of Bethlehem. According to legend, he was afraid Baby Jesus was among them and would grow up to be his arch-rival. It turns out that he was not and King Herod was foolishly wrong. Today, December 28th is celebrated as the Spanish "April Fools´ Day," when people play practical jokes on each other. This includes the media; there´s usually a story written in the newspaper or spoken on the radio that is false, and people never fail to be fooled! Also on this day, you can find these two unique festivals:

Els Enfarinats is a day-long celebration that includes a mock military overthrow in which children take control of the town and choose a new mayor for their city. This chaotic celebration includes fireworks, egg throwing and flour bombs. Check out the video on BBC News Europe.

La Fiesta Mayor de Verdiales is a 51-year-old festival of the winter solstice with a battle of traditional fandango (folk) music and dance groups. Enjoy parts of the festival here.

On The Road:
Foot races are the centerpiece of the last two weeks in December. You can find a list on Carreras Populares website. Madrid's San Silvestre Vallecana 10 kilometer run is known to be one of the world's largest races with over 39,000 runners, but it's divided into two races so that amateurs and professionals don't have to compete. Participants wear Santa Claus hats while running.

All Over:
Literally translated as "Old Night," many spend Noche Vieja with their families having a traditional feast including langostinos (prawns), canapés de salmón (smoked salmon and cream cheese apps), merluza (hake), cardo con almendras (thistle with almonds), lots of sweets, turrón (nougat and chocolate bars), cava (sparkling wine) and sidra (sparkling cider).

At midnight, Spaniards celebrate Las Doce Uvas de la Suerte, a quirky ceremony that dates back to 1895. As Spaniards gather around their televisions to watch Madrid's Puerto del Sol tower clock just 12 seconds before midnight, they eat one grape for each 12 rings. Eating all twelve grapes will bring prosperity and good luck for the entire new year, but most still have the last five grapes still in their mouths by the end of the rings!

It's usually difficult to wing it on New Year's anywhere and Spain is no exception. Call ahead of your trip and ask your concierge to reserve a place to have dinner as most places will have set menus. They´re usually more than happy to help you.

People gather at Puerta del Sol to watch the countdown to the New Year, an event very similar to New York City's Times Square gathering. The party is broadcast throughout Spain, but if you are daring enough to venture there, be advised that the metro is limited, closes early and taxis are hard to find. Real Orquesta Filarmonica De Madrid will also perform Mozart Dances, a ballet production by Mark Morris Dance Group at Teatro Real Sala Principal.

Barcelona: Join the crowd at Plaça de Catalunya as people from around the world ring in the New Year together with champagne, their twelve grapes, and fireworks. The Metro is open all night in Barcelona, but watch out for your pockets.

-- Lori Needleman

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