News Years Eve at Perleta Magic
In Spain, the formal part of the festivities on the 31st of December is generally spent at home, with friends and family. What happens at midnight in Spain, on the Nochevieja fiesta (New Year Eve) in December? Does everyone go their separate ways, or there's parties galore to celebrate Nochevieja fiesta in Spain? Party from 31st morn till night on the 1st January? I've heard a lot of talk about eating 12 grapes as well.
Twelve grapes for good luck! Bizarre tradition, some say, but it's for the Spanish fiesta, right? Others mention that wearing red everything, even underwear, is good - really? Until the midnight hour you have a family dinner, then, at stroke of midnight it is traditional to eat 12 grapes, one on each stroke of the clock to bring good luck for the New Year. 12 grapes, hmmm, I suggest buying the seedless variety of 12 grapes, as it's hard to swallow daintily and balance a glass of champers for the New Year's Eve party (Nochevieja fiestas).
This is a marvelous tradition, to signify good tidings for all the months of the new year. Party-on at nightclubs or with friends until the wee hours of the next morning is the expected turn of events.
In previous years, we've seen in the New Year in Spain by booking ourselves into hotels that provide dinner and dance. The dinner started around 9:00pm. and it normally includes 4 or 5 set courses, desserts and hor d'oeuvres, all wine and drink, champagne, free bar and dance. Time to pace yourself.
As the festivities continue on until dawn, it's generally the bigger hotels that provide the dinner-dance celebrations. At other restaurants, set dinners generally start from 35 Euro (without the dance) to anywhere in the 70 or 80 Euro per person... to over 120 Euro and up for bigger hotels.
Past New Years Eve in Spain... 2005 & 2007
Once the clock strikes midnight, and scoffing the grapes, has passed, there is a fury of hugging and kissing including total strangers. Then the music starts up, and it's Go-Party-Time. The men discard the bow-ties, and the tux jacket is draped on the back of the chair. The ladies ditch the shawl and/or fabulously sequinned jackets into the care of the cloakroom attendant (one of the busiest people at the hotel), and everyone hits the dance floor.
The music consisted of local Spanish favourites where the locals sing along, hot Brazilian numbers, and other fab latino tracks we've never heard of before that our feet couldn't stop tapping to, plus quite a few recognisable English-language music peppered into the mix.
Whole families hit the dance floor including very young children, and especially the Grandmothers who could easily tire out teenagers. We're not talking about infirm Grandmas gently wobbling their way around on zimmers. More like grand old dames with svelte figures that are poured into spectacular party dresses, and who moved with the effortless precision of women half their age. The music normally tails off about 6am, just before they start to serve breakfast...
This year, we decided that to do something a little different: have a Steamboat dinner at home and then change venue to the Alicante main square to watch the fireworks and enjoy the celebrations there. 31-Dec turned out to be a brilliant day; sunshine and about +18C, but come to dusk it turned slightly cool and a breeze started up. To those who are slightly unsure, a Steamboat is a Southeast Asian thing: it's a hotpot dish where all ingredients are cooked in front of you, by you or the head of the table, similar to a fondue.
In the picture, a portable gas stove, steamboat vessel with bubbling chicken soup stock, bean sprouts, red/green peppers, fish, prawns, crab sticks, calamari, pork meatballs, spring onions...and a home-prepared Char Koay Teow as entree, blue serving dish/front left.
The steamboat ingredients are simply chosen at random by diners according to preference and simply placed into the steaming broth. Using either chopsticks or the small basket ladles (shown), cooked food is removed as/when required, and more ingredients added. It is a fun and very social way of having dinner. The unctuous, delicious broth is enjoyed at the end of the meal with noodles and perhaps quails eggs broken into the soup or on its own.
Well, we have a timeline to meet to get to the Alicante Town Hall by 11:30 pm; preparations ensued. The meal more than satisfied us, we would have dessert later when we returned from the festivities in Alicante..
What to wear, I wonder? The breeze had lessened throughout the meal, but caution ruled so we picked up warm jackets on the way out the door and set off for Alicante. No traffic. Hmmm, has everyone left the country without telling us? A few cars appeared on the road as we neared the city.
The Town Hall square is two streets back from the seafront promenade. Knowing that time has a habit of disappearing when you take your eye off the ball, we quickly chose a car park further back from the square next to the marina (car parking can never be taken for granted on festival days) and quickly took to the promenade walkway. Still not sure if this is a trick... so quiet.
Taking the most direct route along the side of the marina, we noticed that the Casino was lit up like a beacon on the opposite side. Quite a few people in front of us now, and behind us, walking in the same direction... ah ok, so they all must leave it till the last minute.
Crossed the main road and into Alicante downtown... now there's people everywhere. Some were togged up for warmth, whilst others appeared to have just stepped out of a warm front room. Following the crowds of party-goers, we made it to the edge of the square. Party-goers with dangling earrings, chic short dresses, high-heels and carrying bottles of cava and cans of twelve grapes. People out to have a good time, regardless of how good or bad the past year might have been. It was a brand New Year that they were ushering in.
With resounding cheer, the 12 bongs of the bell went off where everyone gobbled or chomped the grapes in time with each successive bong. Then toasted each other with bottles (or very large glasses) of champagne. The fireworks ensued. Then the dance music started up; most people bopping around to favourite Spanish beats and more recent Europop/disco and hot Brazilian tracks. The atmosphere was electrifying! The wind died off completely leaving still air, and getting quite warm - I'll know to wear a few layers less the next time...
We stayed around till about 1:00am then made our way back to the car and headed home to Perleta Magic. Murray commented he's never seen the roads so deserted... the only time he can remember is when Spain were playing someone in a crunch European football qualifier.
There weren't any Guardia Civil traffic police cars loitering at typical intersections, or anywhere else. Maybe they were at the square having a knees-up with everyone else as well? We certainly hope so, as everyone there had the look of "this is where we want to be, right now!".
Home, and what now - it's 1:30am. Grab two bottles of ice-cold Cava wine, an armful of desserts... Stollen (German Christmas Cake), Italian Amaretti biscuits, slices of two types of Spanish turron, and two French lemon tarts; the Belgian chocolates at the rear were just too moreish, yes please.
We watched another two DVDs, and then switched over to terrestrial Spanish TV. It looked like every channel was in party-till-dawn mode, with live music, broadcast from live events around Spain, plus historical stuff from yesteryear on Nochevieja events... when we finally called it a night, the clock said 7am... you're kidding me! Suddenly felt totally exhausted; straight to bed.
Welcome to 2010 - live every day to the full!
C O O K B O O K S
Jackies' cook book, 'Travels with a One-Handed Cook', was used for the News Years Eve, and is available to purchase as hardcopy or download. .
- Steam Boat
- Char Koay Teow
- Pork Meatball Noodles