Monday, February 24, 2014

Nochevieja, Celebrating Like a Spaniard

A little late in the year for talks of New Year celebrations, but never too late to learn some new traditions!

New Year's Eve throughout the world is quite the spectacle, but never have I seen a spectacle as large as in Spain.  This year was my first New Year's Eve away from home, and I got to spend it with my boyfriend's family and friends in Santander learning how to ring in the new year like a Spaniard.
I was first most surprised by how family oriented this holiday was compared to the United States.  Unlike in the USA where I either celebrate at my house with my mom and a few friends or at a friend's party, my boyfriend's whole family got together for a huge family dinner (very similar to their Christmas Eve here).

We arrived at their grandfather's house for around 9:00 pm, perfect timing for a Spanish dinner, and spent the time playing games and planning on how my hair would be done for later that night.  Yes, you heard that, how my hair was going to be done...but more on that later.
Bringing two cultures together with pie!
As the clock struck 10:00 we all gathered around the table for a huge dinner of langostinos, pâté, anchovies, cured lomo, salad,  piles of bread, cochinillo (suckling pig/piglet), and cordero (lamb).  Finished off with dessert of torrijas (like a very sweet french toast) and apple pie I made to share some of traditional USA culture.  As usual everything was delicious and I rolled away from the table with a stomach too full for my own good, my typical state after big Spanish family dinners.

Now with an hour to spare before the twelve chimes from Puerta del Sol, the hour of the peinados (hairstyles) began.  In Spain once midnight strikes it's very common for teenagers/young adults, who are of drinking age or atleast pretend to be, meet with their friends to go out.  One of the ways to do this on New Year's Eve is to have a cotillón, a party where a group of people rent out a bar for one pre-paid entrance fee (normally anywhere from 35-70€) and stay and drink there until the bar closes around 6:00 am.  In Santander everyone is dressed to the nines for these cotillones, the men in suits and the women in nice dresses, some even with their hair styled.
My fabulous hair-do
As it was my first, and maybe last cotillón as many of our friends aren't feeling cotillones anymore, we wanted to go all out.  The BF's aunt used to be a hairdresser and she fabulously styled my hair and his sister's.  While we were being "beautified" he was on grape duty.  Counting out grapes for all the family members and making sure everyone had the twelve grapes in time for the twelve chimes, probably the most well known Spanish New Year's tradition.

Unlike watching a giant crystal ball drop in Time's Square, well they have a small ball drop, everyone gathers around the TV, with grapes in hand, to watch the center of Madrid and wait for the clock to strike.  Once the clock strikes numbers appear on the screen with each chime, telling when each grape should be eaten.  I'm proud to say I ate all twelve grapes in time, good luck and prosperity for the new year!, though it did help that we had seedless grapes...  Regardless, we toasted the new year with cava, gave besos to the whole family, and enjoyed all the fireworks being set off near the house.

Now that it was after midnight we were in a time crunch to finish getting ready to meet our friends in the center for 1:00 am.  We were dropped off by their father who agreed to pick us all up the next morning in the center around 7:00 am, a reasonable party end in Spain.

Altogether the cotillón was fun, not the greatest music unfortunately, but after being in Madrid it was great going out with all our friends from Santander.  And like any great Spanish party, we ended the night (began the day?) with chocolate con churros.

When we woke up later that day we went back to their grandfather's house for a New Year's Day family lunch of delicious home-made Paella.  A few games later, more like the same game of Risk for a few hours, we all went to the cinema to catch a movie (Keanu Reeves's 47 Ronin) together.  The perfect way to relax after a long night, and to remember how much I love the Spanish importance of family.  There's nothing better than family time!

How was your New Year's Eve?  Have you ever celebrated it as part of another culture?

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