Wondering what Latino New Year´s Traditions are like? Twelve grapes at midnight. That’s what everyone hurriedly ate. They didn’t eat them like that any other time of the year. Nor was there ever as much fuss during the rest of the year about the color of the grapes or how sweet they were. But on New Year’s Eve, even the color of our underwear mattered! Red was apparently a big hit, as were yellow and green. I knew this because my aunt would giggle with approval at anyone who confessed to wearing these colores chones (gaudy colors.) To me, at all of 10 years old (the same age my son Edgar is today) it didn’t make sense at all why my aunt would ask everyone about their undergarments to begin with, any more than it made sense why my mother would open the door at precisely midnight every year to sweep out our doorway.
Every Año Nuevo it was like all the adults in our tiny little apartment complex would go from being logical parents regañones to careless, grape-eating, red-underwear-wearing, doorway-sweeping versions of themselves, hugging everyone in the room, even if in reality the rest of the year they could not stand them, toasting with a glass of wine or champagne, and wishing one another and even us kids a Feliz Año Nuevo. A few of them would even kiss our cheeks or give us money. Don’t get me wrong; I liked it. I just didn’t understand what all the craziness was all about.
Now I wish I could have better understood and appreciated those traditions back then. Maybe we could have enjoyed them as much as the adults in the room did.
It’s funny how time changes your perspective. Now I want to wear the colored underwear! I want to sweep the doorway to symbolically say: Out with the old, in with the new! I want someone to pop a bottle of champagne and toast for a better year than the last. I want to carefully savor all 12 of my sweet grapes, one at a time, making a wish in my head for every month of the year. I want Mr. Walter Mercado telling me what to expect in 2013.
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Maybe that’s what was supposed to happen all along. Maybe that’s why my parents never really forced us to participate in their Año Nuevo celebrations. We could stand around, giggling at how funny they were acting, and that was perfectly okay with them. Maybe they had done the same with their parents. Maybe they knew one day I’d look back on those years gone by and remember only smiles and laughter on everyone’s faces.
I want my son Edgar to be able to look back one day and remember only the happy faces and hugs over the years. I want him to remember his parents acting silly and in love, regardless of how many obstacles, challenges and tribulations we might have faced together over those same years. I think I understand, now, why my parents never got bogged down in explaining their New Year’s traditions to us kids. After all, it was the memories that mattered, not the reasons behind them.