New year comes early to this Granada village, on the first Saturday of August!
The Alpujarra, a mountainous district south of the Sierra Nevada mountains in southern Spain which straddles two provinces of Andalucía, is home to one of the oddest celebrations in Spain.
The small village of Bérchules, in Granada province, achieved national fame after the locals decided they did not want a repeat of a disappointing New Year’s Eve in 1994, when a power cut left the entire village in the dark and unable to mark the countdown to midnight with the twelve grapes in time with the rest of Spain.
They decided to move that year’s celebration to the beginning of August, and have been celebrating two New Year’s Eves ever since.
The idea came from one of the villagers, Miguel Toro, who later became president of the August New Year association set up to organise the festivities – Abnea.
The celebration takes place on the first Saturday in August, with the village decked out in all the accoutrements of the year-end: there are nativity scenes, trees are decorated, lights are strung up, carols sound out unceasingly from loudspeakers set up around the village, and stalls are set up for the sale of turrón and other winter delights. They even decided to send a basket of typical local produce to the Prince and Princess of Asturias one year, plus an invitation to visit the village for the August festivities.
The celebrations take place throughout the day, where Bérchules’s 800 or so inhabitants are joined by thousands of visitors from other parts of Spain and abroad for the New Year’s Eve fireworks, the procession of the Three Kings, and thousands of kilos of grapes.
The grapes are eaten just as they are on the December New Year’s Eve, along with the chimes of the church bells, as the champagne flows, and artificial snow falls from above.
A similar celebration has been taking in place in Valoría la Buena, Valladolid, in Castilla y León, since 1996, after a heavy storm left the town without power on 31st December 1995. They also treat the August celebration just as they do for the festivities on the last day of December. The difference in both villages is the greeting shouted out by the crowd as the clock strikes its twelfth chime: ‘Happy Half New Year!’