This said, over the years I've noticed some signature differences between the two countries which I'll share here.
• The perfect setting:
USA: A friend's house party – Most people will probably celebrate New Years in the US in a friend's (or friend of a friend's) house.
Spain: Go back to the pueblo or purchase an all-in-one night out at a club – While some people in Spain also celebrate at a friend's house, I think more people either head back to their family's pueblo, where the festivities can be intense, or they buy an all-in-one package night at one of the many clubs which cater to New Year's festivities in the city.
|Time Square on New Year's Eve|
|Nochevieja at Puerta del Sol|
• What to wear:
Spain: Fire-engine red underwear – I kid you not. In Spain, one tradition is that you should wear bright red underwear, which will bring you luck for the new year. (Sort of the way Anglophones wear green on St. Patrick's Day.)
• Balls drop, bells chime:
These two locations are not _the_ place to be for New Year's, and are really only filled with tourists and out-of-town visitors. But all eyes are probably turned to these two iconic squares at midnight. In the US people will often tune their TVs in to Time Square, while in Spain they'll watch the clock strike midnight at the Puerta del Sol...
USA: New York City's Time Square – The traditional mark for the new year at Time Square is the drop of the bright shiny ball, which touches down at midnight.
Spain: Madrid's Puerta del Sol – In Madrid it is all about the clock striking midnight and the twelve chimes (las campanadas) for each hour which signal the dramatic ritual of the grapes...
|A ball drops at midnight in the States|
|Bells chime at midnight in Spain|
• Midnight rituals:
USA: Kiss your loved one – Given that this tradition is so common in the States, and happens in every single movie about New Year's, I've been surprised how little Spaniards are aware that, for Americans, it is important to kiss your partner first thing after midnight on the New Year. It is such a tradition that Americans have consecrated it in the way they know best, by creating movie after movie where the central plot device is that the frustrated couple finally come together for the big kiss (the example par excellence being When Harry Met Sally (1989)).
Spain: Las (doce) uvas y las campanadas – Be prepared! At midnight in Spain, it is a must to eat twelve grapes, each one eaten at the sounding of a bell marking the twelve hours struck at twelve o'clock. If you fail to do so it is very bad luck. (This tradition is probably only about 50 years old, but you wouldn't know it for how intense Spaniards can be about trying to meet this midnight challenge.)
|Grapes ready for midnight, cava ready for toasting, Christmas turron ready for snacking|
|So important is this grape-eating tradition that in Spain you can find these|
ready-made-for-two packages of grapes, each can with 12 peeled-and-deseeded grapes
• The right soundtrack:
USA: Auld Lang Syne – Again, given how traditional this song is for bringing in the new year in Anglophone cultures, it's interesting how little Spaniards know about it. But this song is a classic, and chances are, much like lovers kissing at midnight, you'll hear this song playing in the background in any
|"Auld lang syne" is Scots language for "old long since," |
meaning 'days gone by' or 'long, long ago'
• New Year obsessions:
USA: New Year's Resolutions lists – America's obsession with self-improvement thrives around this time of year. Starting January 1st you will hear much commentary about one's "new year resolution" (dieting an all-time favorite, landing a job a crisis-era close second). (Confessions: I'm writing my annual list of five things to improve.) This is not such a big thing in Spain, but very big in the US.
And I leave 2011 behind with that. Those are all the differences that come to mind for the moment. Please comment away if you can think of others.
Happy New Year! ¡Feliz año nuevo!