In most of the world, New Year’s is one of the biggest celebrations of the year and Peru is no exception. In Peru, however, New Year’s is more than about getting as drunk as possible. A number of unique traditions are observed throughout the country to mark the occasion. A New Years celebration in Peru is the ultimate complimentary to your customized Peru tour.
If you arrive in Cusco in the days leading up to the New Year, you’ll see that the streets are filled with even more color than usual. The city’s vendors sell all sorts of weird and wonderful things to help you celebrate the New Year.
Choose Your Underwear
It might sound a bit odd, but according to Peruvian tradition, you must wear underwear of a particular color on New Year’s Eve in order to get what you want in the upcoming year. Odder still is the fact that this underwear must be given to you by someone else. Most people choose yellow underwear, a color that symbolizes happiness and good luck. Others choose red, which represents love, or green, which represents wealth.
You’ll also see vendors selling other strange things that the people of Cusco buy to ensure good energy will come their way in the New Year. Many people buy fake money, which must be put in their wallets, houses, and even shoes to ensure the next year will be a prosperous one. Vendors also sell candles of various colors (with the same associations as the underwear) that must be lit at midnight.
Celebrate in the Plaza de Armas
On New Year’s Eve, everyone heads to Cusco’s main square, the Plaza de Armas, and the party begins. Businesses around the plaza inflate their prices at New Year’s, and therefore most people spend the evening in the plaza itself, braving the unpredictable weather (this is the rainy season after all) and shunning the overpriced bars and restaurants. The result is an incredibly lively and festive atmosphere, with big groups gathering together to laugh, set off fireworks, and generally have a good time.
Grab Your Grapes and Go
At midnight, the crowd will start to walk (or run) around the plaza. This gesture was traditionally meant to signify a desire to travel in the coming year (you were meant to carry a suitcase with you), but it has evolved over time to become an important part of the New Year’s celebrations for everyone. It’s a truly unique sight to behold, and it can also be quite inspiring to find yourself running with people from all over the world.
You may see some people eating grapes as they circle the square. Twelve grapes are eaten — one for each strike of the clock at midnight — to ensure good luck for each month of the New Year.