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Zany Traditions From Latin America To Ring In The New Year

Image: COLOMBIA-TRADITION-NEW YEAR

A man sells grapes, used in New Year's rituals, in Medellin, Colombia, on December 30, 2014. FREDY AMARILES GARCIA / AFP - Getty Images

To welcome the New Year, Peruvians place three potatoes under a sofa and choose one to forecast the year ahead—broke, average or bountiful. At midnight, for good fortune, many Latinos quickly munch on grapes while naming the months of the year. To the outsider looking in, these and other New Year’s traditions and superstitions may sound a little wacky. Loco or not, when the clock strikes twelve, there will be toasting with champagne and wine and some kind of activity meant to ensure health or wealth for some, fertility for others, and good things for all.

Grapes of Fortune

What country gave birth to this rite-- Spain, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, or Mexico--may be up for debate but what is not is that in most Latino homes, when the clock strikes midnight, you will find adults and kids alike eating grapes to ensure good luck in the coming year. Eat twelve grapes, one representing each month of the year and one extra for good measure.

Watch Your Underwear

In Spain it’s red, in Colombia yellow, in Puerto Rico, white and new—and it’s clear that wearing the right color underwear will guarantee that your goals and dreams for the coming year will come through. Different colors represent different desires—red for a good love life, yellow for happiness and peace, green for money and white for fertility and health.

Potato Prophecies

The potato plays such an important part in the history of Peru that it’s no wonder it pops up in a New Year's tradition. Peruvians use three potatoes to forecast the year ahead. They peel one completely, another partially and the other is left untouched and placed under a sofa. One potato is pulled out with eyes closed at midnight. A completely peeled potato means a bad financial year; a partially peeled potato means an average year and the one with all the skin prophecies a financially bountiful year ahead.

Carry-On Suitcase

If you want to have a year filled with travel to exotic and enchanting lands, make sure to place an empty suitcase by the entrance of your front door. The suitcase in this case is supposed to channel positive energies of travel and serves as the tangible representation of a dream almost true. It’s like being prepared and ready to take off at any moment.

Flower Cleansing Baths

This end of-year-ritual of exists in virtually every Latin American and Caribbean country. In Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico for instance, to cleanse the aura and clear the future, people take baths infused with fresh flowers, oils, honey, cinnamon, and other sweet spices. Most of the time the baths—specific to every individual--are prescribed and prepared by shamans and other spiritual healers who offer end of year tarot car predictions.

Ocean Cleanses

In the Caribbean Islands and Latin America, particularly Brazil, the ocean represents the sacred, a goddess in physical form. This it why it’s part of healing rituals all year long. However, for an end of year rite, people bathe (swim or simply immerse several times) in the ocean before the clock strikes midnight to cleanse the body and spirit of the old. According to lore, the healing ocean waters clear a path for a successful and abundant new year.

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