New Year Sayings, Greetings, Phrases & Vocabulary in Spanish

Instructor: Elena Sacramento Lechado

Elena teaches Spanish as a foreign language and has a PhD in linguistics.

Do you know how New Year's Eve is celebrated in Spanish-speaking countries? Would you like to wish a happy new year to your Spanish friends? In this lesson you will learn about greetings, wishes, and some unique New Year's traditions and vocabulary.

New Year Celebrations

Año Nuevo; New Year's Day, and most importantly, Nochevieja; New Year's Eve, are holidays celebrated around the world. How do you celebrate these special days? Do you know how this holiday is celebrated in Spanish-speaking countries?

In this lesson we will talk about some unique traditions in Spain and Latin America, as well as the basic vocabulary you need to talk about New Year's and wish Spanish speakers happiness and prosperity for the forthcoming 12 months.

New Year's Eve

The 31st of December, or treinta y uno de diciembre (trayn-tiy-OO-noh deh dee-SYEHM-breh), is known as Nochevieja (noh-cheh-BYEH-hah; literally, old night).

As in many other places, people in Spain and Latin America gather together with family and friends to have dinner and celebrate until late in the night. To talk about what people do during that night you will need the following verbs:

Spanish Verbs Pronunciation Translation
to celebrate
comer koh-MEHR to eat
beber, tomar beh-BEHR, toh-MAHR to drink
hacer un brindis
ah-SEHR oon BREEN-dees
to toast
bailar biy-LAHR to dance

Many people drink and toast with champán (chahm-PAHN; champagne) or cava (KAH-bah), a type of sparkling white wine. Just in case you are going to Spain, you should know that for Spaniards, making a toast with water is considered bad luck! So fill your copa (KOH-pah; glass) with any other drink for the brindis and say ¡Salud! (sah-LOOD), the equivalent of 'Cheers!'

Everywhere around the world, many people think about their New Year's resolutions, or resoluciones de Año Nuevo (reh-soh-loo-SYOH-nehs deh AH-nyoh NWEH-boh). Have you already thought about yours?

Also, everyone goes out at midnight to enjoy the fireworks display, or fuegos artificiales (FWEH-gohs ahr-tee-fee-SYAH-lehs), which is a spectacular event in many cities.

Fuegos artificiales = Fireworks

There are parties everywhere with confeti (confetti) and bolsas de cotillón (BOHL-sahs deh koh-tee-YOHN); favor bags, which normally include un antifaz (oon ahn-tee-FAHS; a mask), serpentina (sehr-pehn-TEE-nah; paper ribbons) and un matasuegras (oon mah-tah-SWEH-grahs; a party blower).

Nochevieja = New Years Eve

New Year's Eve Traditions in Spain

There is an interesting tradition and superstition in Spain that always surprises most foreigners. Exactly at midnight, or medianoche (meh-dyah-NOH-cheh), Spaniards are ready in main squares around the country or in front of the TV to eat the twelve grapes, or uvas de la suerte (OOH-bahs deh lah SWEHR-teh), one with each bell strike, or campanada (kahm-pah-NAH-dah) at midnight.

Practically every Spaniard eats the grapes for a lucky and prosperous year ahead. This tradition has also been adopted in many places around Latin America, such as Mexico, Peru, and Chile.

Translation: Champagne and grapes

New Year's Eve Traditions in South America

There are plenty of New Year's Eve traditions all over South America.

Chileans eat lentejas (lehn-teh-HAHS; lentils) to attract prosperity and money.

In places like Colombia and Venezuela, people walk around in circles with a maleta (mah-LEH-tah; suitcase) to have a year full of travel.

Another superstition is wearing red underwear, ropa interior roja (ROH-pah ihn-teh-RYOHR ROH-hah) to attract love. Some people prefer wearing yellow ones instead, amarilla, to attract money and success.

Colombians and Ecuadorians make rag dolls called Año Viejo (old year) that represent something negative they want to leave behind. They stuff them with old clothes, paper, and gunpowder and burn them away at the stroke of midnight.

How many of these traditions did you know? Are any of them present in your own culture?

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