There’s a tradition scattered around Latin America, inherited from 19th-century Spain, about grapes on New Year’s Eve. One eats las doce uvas de la suerte as the old year turns into the new one, assigning each grape a resolution, hope, or desire. As with many traditions, it was invented for cynical, consumerist reasons, in this case by vintners in Alicante to sell their excess grapes. It grew into its significance, becoming a magical ritual to ward off ill fortune and mischievous spirits and then into a tradition maintained for tradition’s sake.
My family has consumed las doce uvas de la suerte every year that I can remember, in between glasses of champagne and the din of festive noisemakers and fireworks. The fireworks and little trumpets and such were well in excess of what my sensory sensitivities deemed tolerable, without fail, but I liked the grapes.
The twelve grapes are a tradition steeped in neither magic nor misogyny. Their religious significance was invented post-hoc and promptly discarded, making them even less Christian than the co-opted Germanic paganism of Christmas trees and Santa Claus. There’s no expectation of labor from women or aggression from men, no insistence that grapes be presented flirtatiously by women to men, and no reinforcement of the dozens of other toxic tropes that together comprise the malign contagion of machismo. There’s not even a culturally-enforced requirement to share one’s twelve hopes for the new year. Amidst the noise and excitement of a festive evening, las doce uvas de la suerte provide a moment of contemplative silence, much sought, much enjoyed.
It’s been six years and change since I started my Ph.D. in Canada, and even on the years where I spent the 31st in Ottawa, I tried to keep up the grapes.
After a year of frustration, rage, hurt, terror, life-goal reevaluation, a harassment incident report, a thesis that will soon end, and my parents still summoning my siblings with “your brother’s on the phone” after acknowledging my reality, I needed those twelve grapes.
Las doce uvas de la suerte are a tool for focusing my mind on the future, and what needs to happen in the coming year, rather than on the hellscape of the previous one.
I’m getting that thesis. I’m joining the workforce. I’m getting my permanent residency. I’m getting a bank account that doesn’t dip into the red every month. I’m getting more board games. I’m getting more writing done.
And then, I’m getting twelve more grapes.