New Year, New Life — Perspectives from Across the Atlantic

Cristina Veciana

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New year, new life. That’s the time to start new purposes, projects and ideas that, speaking honestly, remain almost always incomplete. But there remains a universal truth: On December 31st, all our good intentions of making a change in our lives, of starting something new and good, lead us to be able to appreciate the real joy of new year. However, wishes for the new year are often just that, wishes — or intentions. Imagine the awesome, beautiful and wonderful people the world would become if everyone followed their new year purposes or intentions.. Don’t worry, I don’t even have that much imagination.

In Spain, we have special traditions that help us realize that with a new year come new opportunities and chances for fixing everything we have messed up during the previous year.  On the magical evening of the 31st of December, we gather with our family and friends. I know that a lot of Spanish people write their goals for the new year on a piece of paper (purposes such as: “next year I’m gonna study and focus on my school work instead of sleeping and watching TV 24/7;”  “next year I’m gonna work and pay all my debts;” or “next year I’m gonna be nice to my siblings”) — and then they light candles and burn those papers.

But the most important tradition of new year are the twelve bell strokes or twelve grapes. It takes place in La Puerta del Sol, Madrid, and is broadcast on TV to every corner of Spain. Families and friends gather around the television; and, for each bell a grape is to be eaten. If you try for the first time, I have to warn you, it is a challenge to eat the twelve grapes without choking. The bell plays during the last 12 seconds of each year, one at each second. Those twelve magical seconds — where the party freezes to continue into the next year — are one of the most special moments of the year.  It’s a wonderful tradition that reminds us that, although we mess everything up, we have new chances and new opportunities that we just have to be brave enough to take. And although we ruin something, the world continues moving, time goes on, and your life is not over.

Happy New Year to all the Montrosians that, like me. Now that I’m back in Barcelona, I will miss you. But know that as I choke down the New Year grapes, I will be thinking back on my memorable semester at Montrose. I’m grateful for all the friends I have made at Montrose, but I’m also grateful for warmer weather in Barcelona!