New Year Traditions

This post is also available in: Spanish


Johanna Castillo and Isabel

Johanna Castillo and Isabel

Recently we shared a festive lunch with Johanna Castillo, Isabel’s feisty editor from Atria, and she filled us in on how she kicks off the new year right. Johanna, who is from Ecuador, is a go-getter who sets up her year for success in an elaborate way. We are grateful she shared her secrets, and although we aren’t superstitious (well, maybe a little) we are all going to try these. Isabel says we will be completely exhausted by New Year’s Day, but hopefully we’ll be set for an enlightened and prosperous 2016.

 Some of the following are Ecuadorean traditions, and some we think Johanna just made up. Pick and choose if you want to have a fabulous year.


1. The first thing Johanna recommends doing the morning of December 31 is to make a list of all the blessings you received throughout the year. Give thanks for them, and then write down the blessings you hope to receive in the coming the year.


2. Clean your house and get rid of all that stuff you don’t use. Next, fill your newly uncluttered space with flowers. Put them everywhere!


3. Johanna has one non-negotiable rule for New Year’s Eve. You must dress up, even if you are going no further than the family room couch to watch the ball drop on TV. Whatever your fancy outfit consists of—a strapless dress, sparkly pants, a tux, or tights and heels, make sure you’re dressed to kill before midnight. No excuses! Also, choose your colors carefully: royal blue to ensure a spiritual, enlightened new year; yellow for good luck; white to bring peace, green for prosperity; and red, of course, to attract love. (I am going to wear a rainbow just to cover all bases.) And don’t forget your hair and make up. Your special attire will indicate to the spirits that you respect the new year and want to greet it looking your best. That was my interpretation, anyway.


4. Eat grapes at midnight. Twelve grapes, to be exact—one for each month of the year.  And make sure you enjoy a bubbly drink with your grapes: Champagne, Prosecco, wine or sparkling cider. According to Johanna, it may be a little challenging to eat the grapes and drink at the same time, but it is possible.


5. If you want the coming year to include travel, get out your suitcase and walk it around the block right after you eat your midnight grapes. If you hope to travel to the beach, throw in a swimsuit and towel. Ready to go anywhere, just so long as it’s far away? Lug your biggest suitcase. When you come back inside, make sure you close the door behind you—unless your plan is to move to another country and stay there.


6. Put money in your shoes. This one is important. To ensure a prosperous year, slip money in your shoes on New Year’s Eve. And we’re not just talking ones and fives, either. Be sure to break out the tens and twenties. You can fill your shoes, your kids’ shoes, your significant other’s shoes—anyone’s! If you’re wearing something with pockets, put money in those too.


7. Come January 1, prepare a meal of lentils and rice (another way to guarantee prosperity), have a lunch with your family and enjoy a peaceful day.


8. There was something about underwear, too, but Johanna wouldn’t tell me what.


Happy New Year!



4 Responses to New Year Traditions

  1. Nicky Mercado February 25, 2016 at 8:02 am #

    Estimada Sra. Allende:
    Con todo el respeto deseo mencionarle lo siguiente.
    Estoy leyendo “La Isla Bajo el Mar” y realmente ha sido difícil para mí, como editora y traductora, encontrarme con tantos y tantos errores de tipografía, gramática, puntuación e incluso de sintaxis.
    Mi libro fue comprado en iBooks y lo estoy leyendo en mi iPad.
    Es una pena que dichos errores interrumpan y distraigan la lectura, no solamente por los errores en sí, sino también por la frecuencia. Todo el libro está salpicado de errores.

  2. Gunilla Sondell February 9, 2016 at 7:23 am #

    I Think Joanna Castillo’s guidelines for a proper celebration on New Year’s Eve is a hoot. Typically Joanna! I will try the grapes, Walking around my block at midnight with a suitcase will undoubtedly attract some weird attention from my neighbours who surround the block shooting fire-crackers up in they sky directly from the street! Gunilla

  3. Judy January 7, 2016 at 8:40 pm #

    I am reading The Japanese Lover, unable to put it down. Love her work and hope she has many many more stories to share!

  4. Connie Del Rosal December 28, 2015 at 7:41 am #

    The underwear tradition is to buy a beautiful yellow underwear and wear it with your New Years outfit. It must be yellow. Also, Write down your wish and tape it to a balloon, let it go at midnight. Choose a nice color candle and light it up after all your traditions, be thankful for the old year that brought lesson after lesson and then be thankful for the new ones to come. Happy New Year!

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