by Rose Maramba
Photos: Ayuntamiento de Bérchules unless otherwise stated
Nineteen ninety-three was drawing to a close. Just as when Bérchules in the Alpujarra region of Granada was getting ready for the New Year, the lights went out! A darkened Nochevieja (literally “old night” or, as is universally better known, the New Year’s Eve) is no time and place for eating the traditional twelve lucky grapes pitched to the twelve strokes of the midnight clock.
And so the following year, the Berchuleros decided to usher in the New Year right bang in the middle of summer just in case another brownout plunged the Nochevieja into the dark again. Thus began the village tradition of Nochevieja en Agosto (New Year’s Eve in August).
It’s been 25 years since that first New Year’s Eve in August. And Bérchules, the idyllic village on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada, has made an unfailing tradition of it. There’s nothing perfunctory about the celebration either. The hilly village, home to a scarce 800 inhabitants, sees to it that it has at least all the basic trimmings indispensable to a true Nochevieja celebration in Spain: the essential Three Kings, the grapes for the New Year’s Eve, Holiday Season delicacies.
The Bechuleros may not be rolling in it but within their limited means they don’t stint. They’re proud of their Nochevieja en Agosto, celebrated on the first Saturday of August which, believe it or not, is fast becoming a byword in the country. And even the neighboring towns are counting on the strange Nochevieja to help bring on a measure of prosperity through the tourist business it generates.
In 2019, the Nochevieja Berchulera falls on the 3rd of August.
It makes the Berchuleros happy when people from near and far come to the fiesta. Bérchules, which is a word of Arabic origins and means garden or orchard, is a tiny village with BIG ideas. In 2018 their Nochevieja exceeded all expectations. The Ayuntamiento (municipal government) didn’t think 12,000 people would attend, but they did. As generous as the preparations were, always taking into account the village’s limited resources, there weren’t enough grapes for the campanadas. In the spirit of fun, the holidaymakers went knocking gamely on Bérchules houses, looking for spare grapes!
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