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Chiming out: The southern village stuck in 2021 for eight more months
Friday, December 31, 2021 @ 10:33 AM

ANOTHER year passes at breakneck speed, grape sales in Spanish supermarkets rocket – tradition dictates that you eat one at each of the 12 'bongs' at midnight – and everyone on earth tries to remember a time when celebrations of any nature didn't have Covid hovering in the background like a dark shadow blocking out the fairy lights. Starting at 11.00 mainland Spain time on Friday, December 31 with the Pacific island of Tonga, and finishing a mere 892 kilometres east at noon on Saturday, January 1 in American Samoa on the other side of the date line, every country on earth marks the New Year as we know it, or the end of the final day on the Gregorian calendar.

Except for one village in the province of Granada.

Home to just 712 people, Bérchules, nestling in the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and a stone's throw from the nearest ski station, will be ignoring the chimes again at the dawn of 2022, just as it has for the previous 27 years.


Why no grapes and cava for Bérchules?

Like many towns, villages and cities in Spain, Bérchules used to hold an outdoor New Year's Eve celebration where locals would stand in a square and eat their 12 grapes – representing the 12 months of the year to come – as they listened to the church bells chime the hour.


Nowadays, these celebrations are more likely to involve a large television screen showing the countdown on Spain's mainstream channels, TVE (channel one), La 2, Antena 3, La 4, Telecinco and La Sexta, or homing in live on the Puerta del Sol square in central Madrid.

New Year's Eve in Bérchules (Granada province). You might have noticed the absence of thick coats and the proliferation of T-shirts among the crowds' attire…

The Puerta del Sol clock is Spain's equivalent of the UK's Big Ben, insofar as its bongs are considered to mark the official start of the year, and crowds have been hanging out there for decades to munch their grapes in time with the bells every December 31.

Even last year, 10 months into the pandemic, they did so, but socially-distanced.

Since the dawn of television in Spain – a luxury not all homes had until at least the 1970s or even 1980s – those not going out have typically been glued to the screen at the precise moment of the beginning of the year, just like households almost everywhere else on the globe.

Except Baker Island, a US territory, which 'sees in' the New Year at 13.00 mainland Spain time on January 1, but as it's uninhabited, there's nobody to celebrate it.


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