New Years in Peru: Traditions and Celebrations

While similar to celebrations across the world, there are many customs that make New Year’s Eve distinct in Cusco.


New Year’s Eve – December 31/January 1

While similar to celebrations across the world, there are many customs that make New Year’s Eve distinct in Cusco. Each family will celebrate in its own way according to their traditions. Generally, these are all intended to bring good luck, money and happiness in the new year. A popular custom is to dress a life-sized effigy in old clothes and to burn it, signifying the passing of the old and the welcoming of the new. Buying new clothes (to wear, not to burn) is also very popular, and impromptu clothing markets proliferate all over the city. Underwear is also very important, and people buy new pairs in different colors to attract different things. Yellow underwear symbolizes happiness and luck, red is for love, and green is supposed to bring wealth.  

Many of the festivities happen in the main plaza of Cusco. It is traditional to walk or run around the Plaza 12 times, once for each month of the coming year, to bring good luck. To guarantee safe travel in the new year, you should bring a suitcase with you as you make your rounds. While walking around you can symbolically discard last year’s poverty by throwing a 10-cent coin over your shoulder, bringing good fortune to the coming year. Making 12 circuits or even one has become difficult in recent years as ever more people flood into the plaza to light fireworks and walk their own circles.

New Years at Plaza de Armas in Cusco.

Locals also eat 12 grapes at midnight, one for each month of the coming year, as a way of bringing good luck. As with clothing, vendors all over the city can be found selling bunches of grapes. Beans are another common food that people purchase to attract money: locals stuff their pockets with them at midnight.

There are a variety of traditions in the home as well. Locals create a flower bath with flowers of different colors, according to the same color scheme as the underwear, and bathe in it. Others light colored candles for the same reason. A funny food-based tradition is to put three potatoes under your sofa: one fully peeled, another partially peeled, and a third one with all the skin on. At midnight, you choose one randomly; the amount of money is proportional to how much skin is still on the potato you choose. Some people throw rice around their house to bring money and good fortune.

There is no specific New Year’s dish in Cusco, but turkey, chicken and cuy (guinea pig) are all common. Drinks including chocolate, pisco sour cocktails and local Cusqueña beer are all popular.

If you want to know more about the Peruvian culture and traditions, just contact us here. We are happy to consult you regarding your next travel experience to Peru.