The Spanish always eat dinner and start their celebrations late in the evening, and New Year's Eve, or Noche Vieja, is no exception. This celebratory night typically starts at home with a family dinner. In true Spanish fashion, this begins around 9 p.m. at the earliest. Appetizers start off this holiday feast, and they are followed by multiple courses of home-cooked food. After dinner comes dessert, which is usually fresh fruit, nuts, and plenty of delicious, sweet turron, which are Spanish candy bars.
As midnight gets closer, everyone fills their glass with cava (Spanish sparkling wine) and has a dozen grapes ready to go. What for, you ask? When the bells chime 12 times to count down to midnight, everyone starts popping grapes in their mouths, one for each ring of the bell. The goal is to finish your grapes by the time the bells stop chiming, and you'll have good luck in the new year.
After plenty of hugs and kisses with everyone in the family and more cava and sweets, many people leave to spend the first hours of the new year with their friends, dancing the night away at a nightclub or going to a concert. There is usually a cover charge at clubs, and some places provide an open bar with plenty of cocktails and yes, more cava.
Give a Spanish-Style Party
That's how the Spanish do it, but even if you're not in Spain, add a little Spanish flair to your New Year's Eve for a memorable get-together with friends or family. You can give out grapes just before midnight, pair your dinner with a Rioja wine, or add a dollop of lemon sorbet to your sparkling wine flutes. You can still buy grapes this time of year at the market. While you're there, pick up some Spanish chorizo, ham (jamón), or ingredients to prepare some Spanish tapas, which have become a favorite in the United States and perfect for New Year's Eve.
Here's a list of Spanish food and drinks that would make a great New Year's Eve party menu:
- Top Spanish Tapas: These are the most popular Spanish tapas, or appetizers, from Bravas potatoes to Spanish omelet.
- Cava, Spanish Sparkling Wine: Try this instead of French champagne; it's the same style of wine, just made with different grapes.
- Raspberry Sorbet: A small scoop of this beautiful pink sorbet will make your sparkling wine even more festive. Or use chilled white wine if you prefer.
- Turron, Spanish Almond Candy: What Spanish holiday celebration would be complete without turron? Buy several boxes and cut the bricks into bite-sized pieces to serve on small plates scattered around the party.
- Where to Buy Spanish Food: Not sure where to buy turron or ingredients for Spanish tapas? You'll find a selection of Spanish food in gourmet and ethnic food stores or you can order it online from any one of the sites in the link above.