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CHRISTMAS

Five Spanish New Year traditions to bring luck for 2022

Celebrating 'Nochevieja' in Spain? Here is The Local guide to ensuring you start 2022 with as much good fortune as possible.

Five Spanish New Year traditions to bring luck for 2022
Make sure you wear red underwear on December 31st in Spain. Photo: Josep Pons i Busquet/ Flickr

Let’s face it, just like at the end of 2020, most of us are looking forward to putting 2021 behind us and starting a new year afresh (hopefully without the Covid-19 pandemic dominating our lives).

The big rise in Omicron cases during Spain’s sixth wave has resulted in the return of some rules relating to gatherings, mask wearing and closing times, but that doesn’t mean New Year’s Eve celebrations have to be abandoned entirely.

Spain has more than a few traditions that are meant to bring good fortune and love, and all of them can be upheld even if this New Year’s fiesta is just in the company of close friends and family. 

12 lucky grapes


Photo: Chris Oakley / Flickr

As midnight approaches on New Year’s Eve, everyone across Spain will be clutching a very important talisman: 12 grapes to bring luck and fortune throughout the coming year.

It’s essential for each grape to be popped in the mouth on the dong of each stroke of midnight, no mean feat when you are surrounded by giggling friends in a crowd of people.

To make things easier, supermarkets sell cans containing 12 small, seedless grapes, perfect for popping in your pocket and keeping them to hand wherever you decide to celebrate.

Toast with cava


Photo: cyclonebill/Flickr 

Of course all of Spain raises a glass of Cava to toast in the New Year (Once the grapes have all been gobbled) and tradition has it that for that extra chance of the year ahead bringing prosperity, drop a gold object into the glass before the toast.

A gold wedding ring or gold coin will do the trick, but if it’s love you crave, some say dropping in a red fruit such as a strawberry or raspberry will make sure you meet that special person.

Remember – for the charm to work make sure to down the cava in one gulp.

Wear red underwear


Photo: Micheo/ Flickr 

Talking of love, the only sure-fire way of Cupid shooting an arrow in your direction during 2022 is to make sure you are decked out in red underwear to see in the new year. Some say that it only works if the undies were a gift, while others firmly believe you have to give them away before daybreak if the magic is to work.

Start the year on the right foot

Photo: yasamaster / Flickr

In Spain, tradition dictates that you literally have to start the year on the right foot. And that means not only taking the first step after midnight with your right foot but putting your right foot forward for every important first that day whether it be stepping into your house when you come home from New Year’s Eve celebrations and stepping out in the morning

Eat lentils

Photo: Jonathan Pincas / Flickr

A dish of hearty lentils on New Year’s Day isn’t just great for the hangover it is also said to bring you luck. Normally served in a stew with chorizo, the lentils are said to represent small coins, designed once again to bring wealth and prosperity in the year ahead.

READ ALSO:  The essential A to Z of Spanish Christmas vocabulary

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PROPERTY

Why are Spanish homes so dark?

Despite being known for its year-long sunny weather, Spain is the EU country with the fewest homes with natural light, often intentionally. Why is it that when it comes to spending time at home, Spaniards seem to love being in the dark?

Why are Spanish homes so dark?

Spain – the land of sunshine. The country gets between 2,500 and 3,000 hours of sun per year on average, almost double the 1,600 hours the UK gets, for example.

You’d probably assume that finding a bright apartment in such a sunny country would be a piece of cake, but unless you’re renting or buying a modern home, it might be trickier than you realise.

More than one in ten Spaniards live in dwellings they feel are “too dark” – the highest percentage among all EU countries, according to figures from Eurostat.

As far as dark homes go, Spain is head and shoulders above the EU average of 5.9 percent, and higher than other nations with a high rate of gloomy homes such as France (9.5 percent), Malta (9.4 percent) and Hungary (7.7 percent).

At the other end of the brightly lit spectrum, it’s no surprise to see that countries with cloudier skies and darker winters such as Norway, Slovakia, Estonia, Czechia and the Netherlands have homes that let in plenty of natural light, and yet Spain’s sun-kissed Mediterranean neighbours Italy and Cyprus do make the most of the readily available light.

Dark homes are almost twice as common in Spain as the EU average. Graph: Eurostat.

So why are Spanish homes so dark?

Is it a case of hiding away from the sun, and keeping cool during the summer months? Or is it something else? 

Apartment blocks

The vast majority of Spaniards live in apartments as opposed to houses, often in tightly-packed cities with narrow streets.

In fact, in Spain 64.6 percent of the population lives in flats or apartments, second in the EU after Latvia (65.9 percent.)

By contrast the EU wide average is 46.1 percent.

By nature of apartment living, Spanish homes tend to get less sunlight.

Depending on whether they have an exterior or interior flat, they might not actually have a single window in the flat that faces the street.

If the apartment is on a lower floor, the chances of it receiving natural light are even lower. Internal patios can help to solve this to some extent, but only during the mid day and early afternoon hours. 

why are spanish homes so dark

A dark, narrow street in the centre of Palma de Mallorca. Photo: seth0s/Pixabay

Hot summers

During Spain’s scorching summer months, there’s no greater relief than stepping into a darkened apartment building lobby and feeling the temperature drop. 

In southern Spain, and in coastal regions, Spanish buildings were traditionally built to protect against the heat and hide away from the long sunny hours. White walled exteriors and dark interiors help to keep homes cool.

It’s often the case that bedrooms are put in the darkest, coolest part of the apartment, sometimes with just a box-window to allow for a breeze but no sunlight.

Spaniards’ obsession with blinds and shutters

Spain is pretty much the only country in Europe whose inhabitants still use blinds (persianas), even during the colder winter months.

In this case, rather than it just being down to keeping homes cool during the sweltering summer months, their usage is intrinsic to Spain’s Moorish past and the fact that they provide a degree of privacy from nosy neighbours. By contrast, northern Europeans with Calvinist roots such as the Dutch keep the curtains open to let in natural light and because historically speaking, keeping the inside of homes visible from the street represents not having anything to hide. But in Spain, the intimacy of one’s home is sacrosanct, especially when the neighbour in the apartment building opposite is less then ten metres away.

Keeping the blinds or shutters down also has the advantage of making it easier to have an afternoon nap (the siesta, of course) or to sleep in late after a long night out on the town. 

In any case, it seems hard to believe for some foreigners that many Spaniards are happy to live in the dark whilst spending time at home, regardless of whether they’re sleeping or not. 

A byproduct of this? Dark, gloomy homes.

why are spanish homes so dark

Spaniards aren’t fans of airing their dirty laundry, at least metaphorically speaking. Blinds have historically provided the privacy they’ve wanted from their homes. Photo: Quino Al/Unsplash

The long, dark corridors

Spanish apartments have plenty of quirks that seem odd to outsiders, from the light switches being outside of the room, the aforementioned shutters, the bottles of butane and last but not least, the never-ending corridors. 

Most Spanish homes built in the 19th and 20th century include these long pasillos running from the entrance to the end of the flat. They were meant to provide a separation between the main living spaces and the service rooms (kitchen, bathroom etc), easy access to all and better airing and light capabilities. But when the doors to the rooms are closed as often happens, these corridors become the opposite of what was intended: dark and airless.

Navigating these windowless corridors at night is akin to waking around blindfolded.

dark corridor spain

Light at the end of the tunnel? Dark corridors are a common feature of Spanish homes. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)

Are Spaniards rethinking their dark homes?

Times are changing, and modern designs are experimenting with more spacious, light-filled, open-plan apartments, especially as the Covid-19 lockdown forced many Spaniards to reconsider their abodes. 

It’s also increasingly common to see property ads stressing that the property is diáfano, which means that natural light enters the home from all sides.

However, the vast majority of Spanish homes are still gloomy for the most part, often intentionally.

A combination of traditional building styles, the crowded nature of apartment block living, the use of shutters, the desire to keep homes private, and the long windowless corridors mean Spanish flats can seem dark if you’re new to the country, and with good reason.

Ultimately, it is worth remembering that Spanish society is one that largely lives its life outdoors. Living in smaller apartments, Spaniards generally spend less time at home and more time out and about in the street.

Native to a hot and sunny country as they are, Spaniards’ homes are a place of rest, relaxation and, crucially, sleep.

Spanish people have enough sunlight and heat in their lives; they like to live, therefore, in homes designed to keep cool and dark.

READ ALSO: Why are Spanish homes so cold?

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