Twelve grapes

In Spain, we have the tradition of eating twelve grapes in the first thirty-six seconds of the new year, with each grape corresponding to one of the upcoming months. This tradition—which has been adopted in other Spanish speaking countries—is believed to provide good luck for the year.

No matter where we are, we'll eat our twelve grapes.

The beginning of the year is one of the most important temporal landmarks—moments in which it's easier for us to start doing a new activity. I'll quit smoking. I'll eat healthier. I'll exercise regularly. You name it. Each person has its own fight. And, even though you can kickoff a new habit any day, any time, it's proven that the push of an important event, such as your birthday or the start of a new year or a week, will make it easier.

As mentioned in The Fresh Start Effect—a paper published at University of Pennsylvania by Hengchen Dai, Katherine Milkman, and Jason Riis—"[T]he popularity of New Year's resolutions suggests that people are more likely to tackle their goals immediately following salient temporal landmarks." That is, we are more likely to achieve our personal goals when using the beginning of the week, month, year, or even a holiday or birthday as a kick-start. Temporal landmarks demarcate the passage of time and allow us to create mental accounting periods that relegate past imperfections to a previous period which, as a result, might motivate aspirational behaviors—"activities that help people achieve their wishes and personal goals." 1

These temporal landmarks—be it the turn of the year, the beginning of a month, or your birthday—can provide new opportunities to start fresh and pursue your goals, by establishing timeframes that separate you from your past failures. 2 You can set your own "temporal landmark" in advance and use it as a "fresh start" to improve different aspects of your life.

  1. Dai, H., Milkman, K. L., & Riis, J. (2014). The Fresh Start Effect: Temporal Landmarks Motivate Aspirational Behavior. Management Science, 60(10), 2563–2582. 

  2. Dai, H., Milkman, K. L., & Riis, J. (2015). Put Your Imperfections Behind You: Temporal Landmarks Spur Goal Initiation When They Signal New Beginnings. Psychological Science, 26(12), 1927–1936. 

December 31, 2019
Nono Martínez Alonso

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Pencil sketch of Nono Martínez Alonso.