While “the countdown,” fireworks, and resolutions are somewhat universally held traditions at New Year's, many cultures have their own unique traditions as well. While celebrating New Year's in Barcelona you will experience a few: The Nose Man, grapes, grapes and more grapes, a party all night, and a polar bear swim.
The Nose Man
Every year on December 31st the Nose Man roams the streets of Catalonia. Children are told to look for him and to count his noses because they will get a present for every nose they find. The Nose Man has one nose for every day there is left in the year and therein lies the trick. Since he only comes out on December 31st, children only ever get one present. The younger children often mistakenly expect to get 365 presents and are sorely disappointed. Trick, tricky, Spain.
Every year as the clock strikes midnight, it's a good luck tradition to shove 12 grapes into one's mouth - one with each gong of the clock. I wish this tradition had a better back story with a longer history, but here's the truth: in 1909 wine makers in Valencia needed to figure out how to get rid of excess grapes. Thus was born this tradition that is now wide-spread throughout Spain. People say it's really difficult to eat all 12 grapes in the allotted time, but frankly it seems easier than the similar Ecuadorean grape eating tradition where not only do you need to eat all 12 grapes, but also make a wish with each one.
Head to Plaza de España for the newest Barcelona New Year's Festival complete with a Magic Fountain show, human tower building, fireworks, and the New Year's count down. After the clock strikes midnight, festivities ensue until sunrise. Head out to the bars and restaurants and around 3 or 4 in the morning, join the youth in the clubs (or go to bed, depending on how Spanish you want to be).
Polar Bear Swim
It doesn't get that cold in Barcelona, and in January the water temperature is typically around 57 degrees Fahrenheit, but that's still colder than any water I'd want to swim in. At noon on January first, the Club Natacio Atletico on Barceloneta hosts the “first swim of the year” where you and 400 of your closest friends can jump into the beautiful, yet frigid, ocean.
It's free and open to any participants, but pre-registering with the club gets you a hot shower after your plunge. You'll probably want it since it's typical to dive in wearing only a speedo or bikini. I get the whole self-torture thing to an extent, having done triathlons in this cold of water (it gives you a massive headache), but at least triathlons give you medals.
I hope you have fabulous New Year's plans created for yourself! Until next year :)!