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New Year’s traditions in Latin America: El Salvador, Panama, and Puerto Rico

New Year’s eve is about to arrive. Discover the traditional rituals of three Latin American countries on the night of December 31st.

With just a few days to go before saying goodbye to 2016, there are many people that are already preparing to celebrate  the last day of the year… Big time! No one can just ignore this date; after all, we have to make the most of it to give thanks for all the good things and lessons learned, and to kickstart 2017 with joy in our hearts.

We know this is a special night. Friends and families get together and share their New Year’s traditions. Many of these customs are charged with their own kind of magic and esotericism. But beyond the good fortune any ritual can give us, the simple fact of performing them is enough reason to have fun and strengthen our bonds with the ones we love.

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In Latin America, there are countless traditions for New Year’s Eve. We have to admit: most of them are mere superstitions, and many of them don’t even make sense, but they are still important because they are a reason to remember our roots.

Find out how people say bid farewell to the old year in three different Latin American countries. Who knows? You might even copy some of their rituals to attract good fortune for the year to come!

El Salvador: Egg, the protagonist of New Year’s Eve

At midnight, Salvadorans break an egg and place it in a glass of water at room temperature, then leave it on the windowsill (or simply outside). The next morning, they predict the future for the new year depending on the shape the egg has taken: if the egg white is shaped like a church, then there’s probably going to be a wedding; if it takes a round shape, resembling a coin, then it’s going to be a good year for your finances.

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Instead of wearing yellow underwear (like they do in Venezuela and Colombia), Salvadorans prefer red. In this country, it’s also a tradition to eat twelve grapes and making a wish with each one, as in many other Latin American countries. At dinner, families eat baked turkey or pernil with pineapple sauce.


Panama: lucky seeds for New Year’s eve

In Panama, people don’t swallow the grapes with the seeds and everything, like they do in other countries. There, people save the seeds in their wallets. Some count them and then use the number to bet in the lottery.

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On the morning of December 31st, Panamanians clean their houses with aromatic essences and place incense sticks in every corner. Homes are swept from the inside out to throw bad energies out, and then they mop the floors with oils of different herbs that fill the air with their scent.

At night, people wear yellow underwear and many dress in red to attract good luck. Rice is strewn around the house for prosperity, and people walk around with suitcases (like in other Latin American countries) to have a year full of travel.

It’s also a good omen to welcome the new year at the beach. But be warned: if you go into the water, you must do so facing the ocean, while you must exit facing the beach.

For dinner Panamanians eat pernil, baked turkey, ham, and tamales. In many homes, people also eat fish to attract prosperity. They drink ron ponche to do with the meal and eat pan de huevo (similar to rosca de reyes), a typical sweet treat for the season.

Puerto Rico: Pots and Pans for New Year’s

In Puerto Rico, people fill pots and pans with water, and then they throw the water out the window or the door at midnight. There are those who save the dirty water from cleaning the house to fill the pots. According to Boricuas, this custom attracts good luck, and it’s a symbolic way to get rid of all the bad stuff.

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It’s also a tradition to get rid of everything that’s too old or damaged to make space for new and better things, as well as wearing new clothes to welcome the new year.

Another custom on this island is to listen to a traditional poem called “El brindis del bohemio”, which is broadcast on the radio and tv once the new year arrives. As in most Latin American countries, Puerto Ricans also eat the twelve grapes, and many enjoy the fireworks.

Among the typical dishes people eat on New Year’s Eve, you can find pernil, potato salad, and arroz con gandules. For dessert, there’s tembleque, a sort of pudding made with coconut milk prepared especially for Christmas season.

In the end, it doesn’t matter if you believe in all these rituals and traditions. History has taught us that, even the most skeptical ones end up walking around the block with a suitcase, or eating grapes with the last twelve seconds of the countdown on New Year’s Eve. On the last day of the year, let’s celebrate being able to be with each other, sharing in harmony.

Remember to pass on your traditions and show them to everyone. Use these ideas to mix new rituals with your own ones, and recharge your batteries with love and good vibes to attract the best of everything in 2017.

Happy New Year!