So here we are at the end of what was for many Tenerife residents a pretty tough year.
With an economy that is largely based on tourism things can get quite hairy on the island when the tourists have no money to come on holiday. Then when those who did plan their Christmas break on the island didn’t even get out of Gatwick, well… let’s just say for many that was bitter icing on twelve months of bad cake.
Everyone looks forward to New Year, don’t they? It’s not just about getting legless and kissing everybody you fancy at the sound of the bells; it’s a time to wave goodbye to the bad luck of the past twelve months and to be hopeful for better times in the year to come.
Being Scottish, I’ll be doing a Hogmanay clean today to be sure the New Year gets off to a fresh start. At midnight, I’ll be hoping for our first footer to be tall and dark, bearing gifts of coal, black bun, salt, shortbread and whiskey but the first visitor is more likely to be my short, blonde vecino bearing gifts of homemade sangria and sweeties for the kids.
Scots have always gone to town for Hogmanay. In fact, celebrating the passing of the old year was a bigger event in Scotland than Christmas – a fact that did not escape a disapproving church which commented in the Scotch Presbyeterian Eloquence publication in 1693, “It is ordinary among some Plebians in the South of Scotland, to go about from door to door upon New Year`s Eve, crying Hagmane.”
But Scots are not the only ones with traditions intended to usher in a lucky New Year. In South America you would want to be wearing bright undies at midnight (red for love, yellow for money), in the Netherlands you set light to your Christmas tree and drag it through the street (wonder what elf and safety would make of that one?) and here in Spain, you stuff 12 grapes in your mouth in the minute leading up to the first bell of midnight.
The grape tradition apparently started after there was such a bumper grape harvest one year that the king decreed there would be free grapes for everyone. You’ll find packets of grapes prominently displayed in the supermarkets today -but they certainly won’t be free. If you plan on picking some up to get in the spirit, make sure you pick up the seedless variety. It’s hard enough trying to gobble down 12 grapes without having the grapeseed dry out your mouth in the process.
If you are on holiday in Tenerife tonight, chances are your hotel will lay on a New Year’s party but if you are a free agent, a good place to be is the plaza in front of the church in Los Cristianos. There’s always fireworks, dancing and lots of fun to be had there. If you happen to spy a madwoman, with bulging grape-stuffed cheeks, wearing a red bra and yellow knickers, dragging a flaming Christmas tree and shouting Hagmane, that will be me. I need all the luck I can get.
Lang may yer lum reek!