New Year’s Eve in Barcelona, like many traditions in Spain, involves fun and unique traditions within the Spanish culture. Thus, with the new year right around the corner, it is important to become familiar with the various traditions that will be happening this month.
New Year’s Eve in Barcelona is known as Nochevieja (Spanish) or Cap d’Any (Catalan), and it is customary to stay at home until midnight. In main cities, people gather in the plaza central and dance all night until the early hours of the morning. The ideas of luck, love, and prosperity come with a whole new concept of superstitions and traditions. This night will consist mostly of eating due to the fact that most of the New Year’s Eve traditions in Spain that bring good luck involve food.
New Year's Eve in Barcelona: 7 traditions
New Year's Eve in Barcelona: 7 traditions
As the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, people across Spain pack into the city’s main plazas or into their family’s living rooms to watch the clock chime at midnight. Before midnight, everyone is to eat twelve green grapes, one to represent each month of the year.
With every chime of the clock at midnight, Spaniards eat one grape to bring one month of luck in the new year. It is a race to swallow all twelve before the clock stops chiming. While it may sound simple, the commotion of living rooms and plazas full of people frantically stuffing grapes in their mouths coupled with the three or four seeds in each one makes for not only a chaotic start to the new year but a hilarious one as well!
Tradition 2: Lottery Luck
The Christmas lottery in Spain comes a few days before the new year every morning on December 22. The El Gordo lottery is the biggest lottery draw in the world and is full of superstition and myths. Some say that rubbing your lottery ticket against a pregnant woman’s belly, a bald man’s head, or a cat’s back will attract even better luck.
In the northwestern region of Galicia, lottery players hang their tickets on horseshoes. In other regions, people tuck their ticket next to a figure of the Virgin Mary. Some Spaniards believe that the key to good luck comes in the form of an actual key. Therefore, they carry an old iron key in their pocket with their lottery ticket on the day that the winners are drawn.
Tradition 3: Montjuïc - Light and sound show near Plaça d'Espanya
The city organizes a large arts performance at the Montjuïc magical fountains and a sound and light show to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Barcelona; however, it’s worth noting that this 2023/2024 year will not involve the Montjuïc Fountain due to a draught. Instead, there will be music, fireworks, and other festive displays.
The celebration takes place on Avinguda de la Reina Maria Cristina and the show will start around 11 pm. Be sure to get there early, though, as it gets quite busy. Although the show is designed to be visible from far away, it’s always better to be close to the action. If you are coming and/or going by metro, prepare to queue to get in and out of the station. We would actually advise you to get off at a station before Plaça Espanya and walk the rest of the way, as you’ll end up getting there faster.
The adventurous may also start the new year off right by taking a swim. This popular swim is called ‘Primer Bany de l’Any’. This event has been a Catalan tradition since 1996 and you can hop into the water at the Playa de San Sebastian in front of Club Natació Atlètic Barceloneta. This free event starts at noon on New Year’s Day.
So, if you don’t go to bed right after midnight, you still have some time to rest and eat breakfast before taking the plunge. Participation is free and registration is not required. Generally, the sea temperature will be around 14C and the air temperature can be as high as 18C depending on the sun.
Proponents of icy dips claim that the health benefits are numerous. Supposedly, swimming in cold water can help your immune system, improve libido, and boost circulation. Some even claim to experience a sort of natural “high!” Around 400 excited swimmers usually take the plunge every year.
Tradition 5: Red underwear
If your New Year’s resolution is to fall in love this year, then make sure you ring in the new year wearing red underwear. In some parts of Spain, this cupid-calling good luck charm only works if the underwear was a gift. In other parts, you have to give your festive underpants away by the end of the night for the love potion to work.
No red underwear? No need to worry because Spanish shops stock plenty in the days leading up to the new year. The color red is said to represent luck, and it’s a must in your most intimate wardrobe if you want to make sure that everything is going to go well in the new year. Besides, it is the color of passion and love, so if we want this not to be lacking in the coming year, we must not forget to put something red in our underwear.
Tradition 6: Ring in the New Year with a glass of cava
Good fortune is one of the most popular wishes for the new year, and it is no different for New Year’s Eve in Barcelona. In Spain, many people drop a gold ring or coin into a glass of Cava before the midnight toast. For example, married couples use their wedding ring. Additionally, if it’s love you crave, some say to drop in a red fruit such as a strawberry or raspberry. Nonetheless, for the charm to work you should make sure to down the cava in one gulp.
Tradition 7: Chocolate/halvah with nuts
New Year’s Eve in Barcelona wouldn’t be the same without its favorite seasonal sweet treats, so many traditional Christmas sweets are also consumed for New Year’s. For New Year’s especially, chocolate and halvah are consumed, both of which are said to bring wealth and happiness to the home. Other popular sweets include Turrón, marzipan, polvorones, mantecados, peladillas, alajúes, alfajores, tortas reales. There are two traditional types of turrón, and every Spanish home has someone who loves the soft Jijona turrón, as well as an admirer of the hard type from Alicante.
However, the trend in recent years has turned more towards chocolate coating and unusual ingredients. Trying new things is not so out of the ordinary, though. Centuries ago people used to make turrón with hazelnuts, walnuts, or pine nuts and use flavors such as cinnamon, orange, ginger, and aniseed. For example, there were white varieties, black ones, red ones, guilloche, and candied fruits.
Some practical advice
The streets fill with groups of young people, music playing, and cars honking their horns to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Barcelona. At bars and clubs, there are New Year’s parties with dancing until dawn. Many hotels and restaurants also organize special New Year’s Eve celebrations, including dinner, grapes, dancing, and entertainment. If you decide to go for one of these, you should book your table or buy your ticket for the party in advance.
There are usually changes to public transport timetables on these dates. If taking public transport, remember that bus and metro services usually finish earlier than usual on the night of 31 December, and start later on the morning of the 1st. If you want a taxi on that night, it’s advisable to order one by phone in advance, because in the early morning there will be considerable demand.
Of course, the most important thing to remember is to be safe and have a good time celebrating New Year’s Eve in Barcelona!