Get Out Your New Undies, Your Old Suitcase: Mexico’s New Year’s Rituals Explained


In Mexico and other Latin American countries, women wear yellow underwear on New Year’s Eve to bring good luck and wealth in the year to come.  Red underwear (this vendor has a lot on her tables for sale) indicates a New Year’s wish for an exciting love interest!  Just remember that the underwear has to be NEW.

Superstition or not, many people here in Mexico have the custom of ritos del Año Nuevo (New Year’s rituals).  Some rituals include foods, others prescribe certain clothing, and still, others warrant attention for religious interest.

As the clock strikes midnight, it’s common to eat twelve grapes–one at each ding, one at each dong of the bell.  While eating the grapes, you make a personal wish for each grape you consume, welcoming the new year that’s beginning.  Mexico Cooks! finds that it’s helpful to write down the twelve wishes so as not to forget one or choke in the rush to swallow the grapes before the clock finishes striking the New Year’s earliest hour!  Even the most elegant restaurants promise that along with your late-night New Year’s eve meal, they will provide the grapes and champagne.

Eating a tablespoonful of cooked lentils on New Year’s Eve is said to bring prosperity and fortune.  You can also give raw lentils–just a handful, with the same wish for abundance, to family and friends.

Mexico Cooks! has often received a New Year’s detallito (a little gift) of a tiny bottle like this, filled with layers of different kinds of seeds and grains.  This gift represents the giver’s wish for your New Year: abundance.

Sweep all the rooms of your house, your front steps, and the street in front of your house to remove all traces of the old year.  Some people put 12 golden coins outside–to be swept into the house after the house is swept clean.  The coins are to invite money and other abundance to come into the home.  Photo courtesy Jeff Trotter.

On a small piece of paper, write down the undesirable habits and customs you’d like to let go of in the New Year that’s just starting.  Burn the paper, then follow through with the changes!

Choose three stones that symbolize health, love, and money.  Put them in a place where you will see them every day.

Light candles: blue for peace, yellow for abundance, red for love, green for health, white for spirituality, and orange for intelligence.

Spill clean water on the sidewalk in front of your house as the clock rings in the New Year.  Your house will be purified and all tears will be washed away.

To have money for your needs all year, have some bills in your hand or in your pocket to welcome the arrival of the New Year.  Some people fold up the money and put it in their shoes!

Take your suitcase for a walk.  Legend is that the farther you walk with your suitcase, the farther you’ll travel.  Several New Year’s Eves ago, Mexico Cooks! and a few friends celebrated by walking our suitcases around the block.  We all traveled far and wide during the new year that followed.

Mexico Cooks! wishes all of you a muy próspero Año Nuevo–and especially wishes that your red underwear brings you (or keeps you) the love of family, friends, and that special someone.

We’ll see you right here in 2019!

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Nearly 40 years of life in Mexico give me an extraordinary perspective on life, cultures, and cuisines in this complex and glorious country.

I speak native-level Spanish and am a Mexican citizen. Mexican food, history, native and mestizo cultures, and Mexican esoterica are my passions. Want to know about a custom or a tradition or a festival? Just ask me!

I’ve eaten in 28 of Mexico’s 31 states (plus the Distrito Federal–Mexico City) and continue to be a serious student of Mexico’s cuisines. Need to know about a particular herb or regional dish or seasonal meal? Let me know.

I offer specialty guided tours in Mexico, including hands-on culinary adventure tours, extraordinary tours to the homes of artists and artisans, and off-the-tourist-track adventures in the city of Guadalajara, the state of Michoacán, and Mexico City. By all means, contact me when you’re ready for a Mexico you scarcely knew existed. If you’re interested in touring with me, email me at

As you read Mexico Cooks!, you’ll discover your own passions about Mexico.