New Year's Eve Traditions in Chile. Typical things Chileans do at midnight of New Year's Eve - Woodward Culture

At the strike of midnight you may see entire families gulping down lentils and grapes which they wash down with champagne (hopefully without swallowing gold rings) which is then quickly followed by turning their yellow underwear from inside-out back to normal before taking their suitcase for a walk around the block with money in their shoes.

And the thing is, this is perfectly normal … in Chile

Chile has its own traditions and rituals when it comes to celebrating New Year’s Eve and I’m not just talking about the mega New Year’s Fireworks display in Valparaíso.

Here are some of the most common “cábalas” (good luck traditions) you may see performed at midnight for New Year’s Eve celebrations in Chile.

Gold ring in a glass of champagne

One tradition is to place a gold ring in your glass of champagne and leave it there as you drink from it. This is supposed to bring you fortune in the New Year.

However, be careful NOT to swallow the ring unless you like going to the toilet with a sieve in your hand.

12 grapes

For every strike of the bell at midnight, a grape is eaten. The twelve grapes represent each month of the year and if one of the grapes you eat is sour, then that month will be bad or sour, if it is sweet, then that month will be too.

If you really want to screw someone, then send them a bunch of sour grapes, smother them with fish oil or blue vein cheese and they will be freaking about the rest of the year. Mua ha haaa!

Yellow underwear

If you want happiness and good times then wear yellow underwear which has been turned inside-out and then put them on properly again after midnight. Ideally the underwear should have been given to you as a gift.

However, for some reason, the idea of seeing grandparents’ wrinkly private parts as they reverse their underpants doesn’t seem like a great way to start the year. Well, everyone to their own.

And no, underwear that used to be white and is now yellow from being unwashed for so long does NOT count.

Walk around the block with a suitcase

If you would like to travel a lot over the next year then you will need to walk around the block with a suitcase.

In fact, why don’t you just keep going? Everyone will be too drunk to know you’re not there and by the time they wake up in morning, you’ll be long gone.

The first hug

Your first celebratory hug after midnight must be with someone of the opposite sex. This will make sure you have good relationships with everyone during the year (not just with that person).

Unfortunately this would mean that if the room is only full of guys or just girls … looks like they’re all in for a shitty year.


Eating spoonfuls of lentils at midnight is supposed to bring you more money over the next year too.

Imagine how your stomach is after eating lentils, grapes and drinking the champagne in a short amount of time. Then when you have to sift through the end result looking for the gold ring you accidentally swallowed … not good!

Money in your shoes

Placing money in your shoes is meant to bring you economic prosperity during the upcoming year.

Do you think the guy at the grocery store will be happy to receive notes that smell like feet? Probably not, so he’ll end up giving you the stuff for free … hmmm, now I see how this works.


Some people have different coloured candles burning on New Year’s Eve and each colour has its own meaning and what it is supposed to bring: Blue is for peace, Yellow for abundance, Red for passion, Green for health.

So that probably means you have to avoid the black ones – they must be evil, as too the rainbow ones where your year will resemble some bad psychedelic trip.

NOTE: This article was originally posted on our website in December 2011. The website is no longer active and some articles have now been published here on

Spanish Teacher Resource

Would you like to teach these Chilean New Year Traditions to your Class in Spanish?
We created a version of this Cartoon Chart in Spanish along with a reading passage with comprehension questions.
More details here: New Year’s Traditions around the world: Chile (in Spanish)

We also have this Spanish reading activity: Spanish New Year Reading with Photos – Año Nuevo en Chile