By Rose Maramba
Photos courtesy of nocheviejauniversitaria.com and elnortedecastilla.es/almeida
Last Friday, 11 December 2015, was New Year’s Eve. Excited university students trooped to the Plaza Mayor in Salamanca, the city of the venerable 11th century Universidad de Salamanca. They were going to celebrate the end of the old year and ring in the new which, to all intents and purposes, will not even begin until after the 6th of January, Feast of the Three Kings, 2016.
At midnight the clock on top of the City Hall rang 13 times for the fiesteros – 12 for the twelve months of the year, plus one in memory of the victims of the atrocious terrorist shootings in Paris last 13 November.
This is the eleventh year that Salamanca celebrates the Nochevieja Universitaria, the university students’ New Year’s Eve, which has its origins in the 1990s when a dozen students asked their classmates and friends to come join them in the Plaza Mayor on the eve of the winter break before quitting the classrooms, each going their way to their respective hometowns for the Christmas holidays, effectively bringing the old year to an end.
Holding beer and wine in one hand and 12 gominolas (jelly beans), or exceptionally 13, as was the case in 2015, to pop into their mouths at each of the 12 strikes of the clock, they ushered in the “New Year”. Purposely or unwittingly, the original fiesteros set in motion what is now a virtual tradition that celebrates in Salamanca the New Year’s Eve some two weeks before it occurs in the official calendar.
The peculiar New Year’s Eve mimics the 31 December—1 January nationwide celebration whose epicentre is in the nation’s capital. Those who can come to Puerta del Sol, the geographic center (Km. 0) of Spain, in order to be right on the spot when the clock’s bell in the tower of the Real Casa de Correos, seat of Madrid’s regional government, rings 12 times to herald the imminent arrival of the New Year.
The heady event is beamed live to Spanish homes throughout the country so that folks who can’t be in Puerta del Sol, but are gathered on tenterhooks around the TV instead, could pop the grapes in sync with the clock. If they don’t botch it they could look forward to a lucky new year.
And there lies the crucial difference between the students’ Nochevieja and the multitudes’ in Puerta del Sol: in place of the wishes for A Happy and Prosperous New Year, the universitaria looks forward to the renewal of friendships back on campus at the beginning of their new year. That is, after the Reyes on the 6th of January.
Incidentally, the crowd in the Plaza Mayor of Salamanca keeps growing, from the paltry but enthusiastic dozens of the first Nochevieja to the almost 50,000 fiesteros last Friday. Students, and the young folks in general, from many parts of Spain and beyond (Italy, Portugal, Germany, etc.), are joining in ever bigger number.
For whatever reason the Nochevieja is being celebrated on whichever date, from the Plaza Mayor or the Puerta del Sol,