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Feliz Año Nuevo: Chile's New Year's Eve Traditions and Epic Fireworks

Pop open the bubbly and raise a glass, it’s New Year’s Eve!

All around the world, many countries and cultures have their own regional ways to ring in the new year. For Chileans, it’s an occasion to party and be merry until the wee hours of the morning, drink traditional drinks like cola de mono, travel to the coast to see Valparaiso’s annual fireworks or watch the fireworks in their hometowns, and run through a laundry list of customs to ensure a prosperous and successful coming year.

So, welcome in the new year Chile-style with these traditions guaranteed to bring you joy and good fortune in the new year. Feliz Año Nuevo!

New Year’s Eve Customs and Traditions

Twelve Grapes - At midnight, Chileans eat twelve grapes, one for each month. The significance of the grapes can be threefold: 1) to bring good economic fortune, 2) to make 12 wishes - one per grape - for the new year, and 3) predicting how the new year will treat you based on whether the grapes are sweet or sour.

Yellow underwear - Was the previous year a dud for your love life? Wear yellow underwear and someone special will come along with the new year. Alternatively, some people say wearing the yellow underwear means you will become engaged within the next year. But either way, love will be in the air! Bonus points if you wear the underpants inside out, and if they were a gift.

Empty Suitcase - Is one of your New Year resolutions to travel more? Chileans have a trick to guarantee that that goal comes true. Before midnight, take your empty suitcase for a stroll around the block for a year full of new adventures and memories in exciting, far-off places.

Lentils - To have a prosperous new year full of abundance and economic success, eat a hearty serving of lentils on New Year's Eve. Bring on the abundance!

Money in the shoe - If you don’t think the lentils or grapes did the trick for making bank in the new year, place a $1000 Chilean peso in your right shoe. According to the superstition, it will multiply in the coming year. Shall we call it a shoe-investment?

New Clothes - Hoping for big changes? Only wear new clothes on the big night, for a year filled with the new and in vogue.

Gold Ring in Champagne - While sipping the celebratory champagne, make sure to put a gold ring in the flute and drink the liquid while the ring is still in the glass. This will bring you good luck

Kiss at midnight - The classic “kiss at the stroke of midnight” bodes well for a year without loneliness.

pan de pascua

What to Eat and Drink

To wash down those lentils and grapes, Chile’s NYE beverages of choice are cola de mono (a White Russian-esque concoction of aguardiente, coffee, milk, and cinnamon), wine, pisco, beer, mixed drinks, and, of course, flowing bottles of champagne.

To soak up all that alcohol in advance, many families will have a big, filling dinner before heading out to join the party in the streets. And for the day after, either left-overs or some good, fresh Chilean seafood to cure the canas (hangover) because there’s nothing like fried fish or a hearty seafood stew to cure what ails ya. Pan de pascua (Easter bread), a fruit cake-type bread filled with dried and candied nuts and fruits, also makes a handy snack while out celebrating.

Cola de Mono

Where’s the Party?

Although cities all over Chile host epic NYE extravaganzas and there are endless parties to attend, nothing holds a candle to Valparaiso’s famous harbor fireworks show.

Valparaiso’s prime location at the far end of a coastal, bowl-shaped harbor (mirrored by Renaca and Con-Con at the far end with Vina del Mar in the middle) is perfect for a grand fireworks display, especially since the natural shape of the bay makes it possible to see the entirety of the bay from almost anywhere along the coast. That’s why, for years, barges loaded with fireworks have put on the most spectacular fireworks show in South America, which even made the Guinness Book of World Records in 2007 for the launch of 16,000 fireworks.

Spaced throughout the harbor, the show starts at midnight and lasts roughly twenty minutes, with the flashy explosions and cascading sparks beautifully reflected in the water. To add to the magical effect, people watching from their houses on the hills of Valparaiso send off paper lanterns to light up the sky.  

Best of all, on NYE, it’s legal to drink in the street, so all across Valparaiso there’s a never-ending party running from dusk til dawn. Just grab a drink and join the fun! Also, for people who love partying late, Chile is the place to be for New Years. People will often stay out dancing and enjoying the festivities until as late as 8 in the morning, before returning home to sleep off the night's excesses.

But even if you can’t make it to the fireworks in Valparaiso and Vina, there are a plethora of partying opportunities around the country, especially in Santiago.

Valpo port  at night

From all of us here at Cascada Expediciones, we hope you have a safe and fun New Year’s Eve, and we wish you a prosperous and successful 2017! Feliz Año Nuevo!