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Grapes, black-eyed peas custom bring luck for New Year

 
 
Reply Sat 31 Dec, 2011 12:14 pm
Dec. 29, 2011
Grapes, black-eyed peas bring luck for New Year
By ELAINE WALKER - MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Juan Ramon Alvare is a produce wrapper at Sedano's, 8601 SW 40th Street, where they are stocking up on grapes for this week to meet the demands of Hispanics who believe that eating 12 grapes at midnight will bring them luck in the New Year. The retailer sells about 5,000 cases of grapes this week compared to 1,000 cases on a normal week.

When Teresa Callava heads to Walt Disney World for a New Year’s vacation with friends and family, she’ll be bringing plastic bags packed with 12 grapes, one bag per person. For Callava, the Cuban tradition has been a ritual since childhood.

Eating 12 grapes, one for each chime of the clock at midnight on New Year’s Eve —or for each month of the year — is meant to bring good luck for the coming year.“ I count them out myself and put them in the Ziploc bags,” said Callava, 55, who lives in Miami. “You don’t want to take any chances. I will take my grapes wherever I go. It has to be 12. If you eat 10 or 13 it’s like bad luck.”

For South Florida supermarket chains, that tradition boosts sales in the produce department.Winn-Dixie sells between more than three times the typical volume of grapes during this week, said Tony Jorges, South Florida district manager. The 40 Winn-Dixie stores in South Florida’s Hispanic markets account for about 30 percent of the entire company’s weekly grape sales.

Publix estimates that its sales volume of grapes doubles in South Florida during the pre-New Year’s week. “We work with our suppliers to make sure we’ve got enough in stock to meet the demands of our customers and help them celebrate,” said Kim Jaeger, a South Florida spokeswoman for Publix.

The demand is even more dramatic at Sedano’s, which caters to a heavily Hispanic clientele. The chain typically sells about 5,000 cases of grapes during the last week of the year compared to 1,000 cases during an average week, said Javier Herran, director of marketing for the 34-store chain.

Over the years, many consumers have shifted from the traditional red globe grapes with seeds to the red seedless variety, which now represent about half the volume.“People are willing to pay a little more to get the seedless grapes,” Herran said.

The grape tradition apparently dates back to around 1909 when grape growers in Alicante, a Southern Spanish province, were faced with a large production surplus. The tradition spread throughout Latin culture and today is popular among a wide range of ethnicities including those from Brazil, Chile and Costa Rica.

But Hispanics aren’t the only South Floridians who celebrate with food-based New Year’s traditions. Southerners opt for black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day as a way to ensure luck and prosperity in the coming year. Many also eat them with collard greens or turnip greens, which represent dollar bills, while the beans represent coins.Publix will be ready for those customers too, bulking up on their supply of black-eyed peas.

Those also see a “very significant increase” in sales throughout the chain – not just South Florida, Jaeger said.Robbie Bell of Miami will be cooking up a big pot of black-eyed peas at her house to ring in the New Year. It’s a tradition she learned from her mom, who grew up in Texas.“It doesn’t matter how you cook them, as long as you serve them,” said Bell, 66. “I have had a very prosperous year. So I’m going to say it works.”

WLRN reporter Trina Sargalski contributed to this report .

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/12/29/v-print/2566390/grapes-black-eyed-peas-bring-luck.html#storylink=cpy
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