Happy New Year! a la Chilena

Chilean New Year comes in mid-summer, which makes it great for evening activities outdoors, such as barbecues, fireworks, and long conversations into the night… Along with some fun traditions to bring luck, love, and money into the New Year!

Chilean New Year comes in mid-summer, which makes it great for evening activities outdoors, such as barbecues, fireworks, and long conversations into the night…Along with some fun traditions to bring luck, love, and money into the New Year!

Fireworks decorations in Santiago

Fireworks decorations and light-wrapped palms in Santiago

I’ve written (ok, complained) about missing snow at Christmas, but New Year’s in the summer is something entirely different! Wonderful, in fact!

New Year’s is not the big drinking holiday it is in the States (Chileans save that for Independence Day). It tends to have 2 parts: the family celebration lasts til midnight, then people disperse to celebrate with friends until dawn.
Sure there are the big  and raucous fiestas at hotels and events centers, with party hats and dancing, but our own circle of family and friends prefer a quieter, more traditional celebration. We begin with a late dinner with the in-laws (with no particular food traditions), then turn on the TV just before 12 to watch the countdown… Santiago’s “Times Square” is the Entel Tower in the city center, where thousands of people gather hours before to watch the spectacular fireworks display at midnight.

5-4-3-2-1 ¡Feliz Año! And big hugs all around… best wishes for a new year… a little more chit-chat and then the streets fill with people rushing off to their parties with friends. Santiago’s streets at 12:30-1:00AM on New Year’s Eve are like any workday traffic jam! Parents of teenagers deliver their kids to various houses and parties with strict orders to be home by dawn. My daughter once spent the night with a friend whose mother told the girls: “You’re 16, so be home by 6:00; your brother is 17, so be home by 7; your sister, at 18, must be home by 8:00” (there are definite advantages to being a teenager in Chile!).

We head off to friends who always host their entire family for dinner on the patio. After another round of hugs–¡Feliz Año Compadre! ¡Que sea un buenísimo año Comadre! (In fact, this will go on we’re on for the next couple weeks). And we mingle over after dinner drinks, coffee, and lively conversations and debates long into the night until we finally call it a night about 3AM.

Yep, I really like the Chilean version of New Year… Sure beats hanging out with drunks in bars and then trying to stay out of their way as they drive home on icy streets in an Upstate New York blizzard!

Chilean New Year’s Traditions:

Holiday greeting cards usually wish people a Prosperous New Year, and there are many New Years Eve traditions associated with attracting wealth in the coming year.

Lucrative Lentils: eating lentils on New Year’s Eve ensures prosperity in the coming year.

12 Grapes: people eat a dozen grapes–one for each month of the year–to bring good economic fortune… hmmm- with the dour predictions for 2009, maybe we should have doubled the prescription!

Golden Toasts: not bread–place a gold ring in your bubbly for a prosperous new year… unless of course you choke on it and start the year with a large hospital bill!

Wheat for Abundance: ribbon-wrapped sprigs of wheat are commonly sold on the streets of Santiago at Christmas time and some people distribute them to each guest at midnight on New Year’s Eve to bring abundance.

Shoe Money: stick a luca (a $1000 peso bill) in your shoe before midnight and it will multiply in the coming year (it may even get a better rate than the banks do these days!)

But it’s not all about money, of course. Love, luck, and travel are also high on the wish list!

Yellow undies: looking to add some romance to your life? Be sure to wear your yellow panties on New Year’s Eve!

Undies inside out: clothes horses turn their underwear inside out to ensure a well-stocked closet in the coming year… make them yellow and get a “twofer” (would that be a well-dressed lover? Or maybe your well-dressed lover comes out of the closet?). Some people say they should be turned right-side-out after midnight for happiness. Others say this works best if the underwear is a gift.

Lugging the Luggage: feeling a bit of wanderlust? Make your dreams come true by taking your favorite suitcase for a walk around the block…

Burning the bad: this fun and even emotional ceremony requires tying a life-sized stuffed dummy to a stake and shortly after midnight, all the participants write something they want to change in the coming year, attach it to the dummy, which is then set it on fire. The bad things in your life go up in flames!

2 responses to “Happy New Year! a la Chilena

  1. La Gringa/Margaret

    Thanks! And there’s more to come… I’m fresh back from a LONG holiday weekend at the beach (another benefit of life in Chile), and I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on a bit of everything Chilean–which means there’s always something more to say!
    La Gringa

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