New Year’s Eve Traditions in Chile

Typical Chilean Traditions for New Year's Eve

New Year’s Eve Traditions in Chile

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.

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 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 bell strike 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 also.

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 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. Then when you have to sift through the end result looking for the 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 would be happy to receive notes that smell like feet? Probably not, so he’ll end up giving you the stuff for free … 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.


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.
For more details, check out:
Spanish Teacher Resource - New Year Traditions in Chile

What New Year’s traditions do you have in your country?

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9 Responses to “New Year’s Eve Traditions in Chile”

  1. Thornyrose December 30, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    As usual, you made me laugh. I won’t be celebrating New Year’s in Chile, but good luck with all those traditions! Happy New Year, Rob!

    • Rob W. December 30, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

      The problem is, most of them have to be done in the first 12 seconds (striking of the bell). It would be fun to watch someone try and do them all in that time.
      Happy New Year to you too!

  2. Catherine December 31, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

    hahah love the photo!

    • Rob W. January 2, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

      Thanks Catherine, I had someone pose like that for about 2 hours straight so I could get the picture right. 😉

  3. Colin January 4, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    Is it not also good luck to have rice in your pocket?

    “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.”

    Also looks like you’ve had a shitty end of the year too!

    In Iowa we have no tradition for New Years like here in Chile, just excessive drinking.

    • Rob W. January 8, 2012 at 10:18 pm #

      Also looks like you’ve had a shitty end of the year too!

      Ha ha ha, now that you mention it, yep!

      No idea about rice in your pocket, maybe. Though if you have money in your pocket (or hand) it is also good luck.

  4. Liz December 31, 2012 at 11:35 am #

    hahaha sounds like so much fun happens there!

  5. Paula Navarro May 28, 2014 at 10:34 am #

    Well, I am from Chile and at first, I thought this was very funny. The idea of somebody teaching my country’s traditions in some spanish class was cool enough. However, as a was reading, I realized that in some part you mock of chilean (stupid) people for doing the cabalas. Well, off course I think it is not correct and proper to mock of people anywhere else around the world. Besides, if you are teaching something, you shouldn’t make fun of what your are teaching. Am I right?
    Anyway, I am chilean and I’ve never done none of these cabalas because I think they are stupid too, but the thing is you are making fun of a whole culture and country and that is not correct.

    • Rob W. June 20, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

      Hi Paula, not mocking at all, just using humour to explain what is done. Even though my “supposedly mocking” thoughts about each cabala don’t appear in the teacher’s resource, I personally think a sense of humour in the classroom increases interest and learning.
      My wife and I do some of these cabalas every year, maybe you should try them so your year will become better.

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