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How Latinos in Reno keep their New Year’s traditions alive

A close-up of a hand with long pink nails holding a golden lighted sparkler. The background is dark about out of focus.
Tairon Fernandez / Pixels

New Year’s is just around the corner. For many, it means toasting at midnight while watching the Times Square’s ball drop, but for others, it means following certain traditions and rituals.

Christmas and New Year’s are big holidays in Latin American countries. In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, as the clock strikes midnight, Latinos make sure to follow certain rituals.

One of the most common traditions is eating 12 grapes, one for good luck in each month of the new year.

But Latinos also follow other rituals if they want to attract something specific.

For example, walking around in a circle with a suitcase means a year full of traveling. Wearing red underwear can help you attract love, and sweeping the floors of your house means new beginnings and renewal.

Andrea Subitoni is from Brazil. She has been living in Reno for almost two years. She said that Brazilian people are extremely superstitious when it comes to New Year’s traditions.

A woman wearing white standing next to a large indoor plant
Courtesy of Andrea Subitoni
Andrea Subitoni dressed in white during New Year's Eve 2017.

“We use white clothes, we never use black clothes. I know there’s a lot of American movies where people are using black, in Brazil, they say that’s not good luck, so it’s something that we never do,” Subitoni said. “We usually buy new underwear, they say that it’s good luck to have underwear that you have never used before.”

The symbolism of wearing white on New Year’s Eve comes from the Afro-Brazilian religion, Candomblé. People would wear white during rituals to seek peace and spiritual purification.

Brazilians also spend the day on the beach with friends and family, but Subitoni said there is a reason for that.

“Close to midnight, they say that it gives you luck if you jump seven waves,” Subitoni said.

This tradition comes from the Afro-Brazilian religion, Umbanda. According to it, the person jumping the seven waves will receive spiritual purification and strength to overcome whatever obstacles may arise in the coming year — and for every wave, they make one wish.

In Argentina, it is believed that wearing brand-new pink underwear attracts prosperity and love. But for Joana Miranda, it’s all about the food.

“The main idea of our celebration is dancing and eating,” she said.

She makes sure to receive the New Year with a table full of traditional Argentinian dishes and pastries, which she shares with family and friends.

“We make empanadas, we make lots of salads and sweet stuff, like alfajorcito de maicena or bomboncito de avena, and we share all of that. We eat together, and at twelve, we cheer. After we are done with the food, we clear everything up, and we start dancing. We dance all night long,” Miranda said.

Even if it’s just reflecting on the year that has just passed, we all have some sort of tradition. For KUNR’s Palma, she will follow the tradition of eating lentils to attract good luck and fortune, and make a toast wishing everyone a happy and prosperous 2023.

Maria joined KUNR Public Radio in December 2022 as a staff reporter. She is interested in stories about underserved communities, immigration, arts and culture, entertainment, education and health.
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