Guest blog: Chris Chaplow We hope that those of you who live in Andalucia (or indeed the rest of Spain) managed to celebrate Noche Vieja (New Year’s Eve) in the traditional way with the 12 grapes at midnight. Just before 12pm on 31 December everyone tunes in to the national television channel, RTVE1, where two glitzy presenters are awaiting the ball drop followed by the countdown from the ‘Casa de Correos’ clock in Puerta del Sol, Madrid. All around the nation, people prepare to down their 12 grapes in perfect time with the 12 campanadas (chimes) of midnight. Similarly in Andalucia, the regional television channel, Canal Sur, traditionally does a live transmission from the Plaza de las Tendillas in Cordoba. This year, however, it was the turn of Almeria, a city celebrating its millennium. With four million Andalucian viewers tuned in to an unfamiliar town clock, the presenters actress Ana Ruiz and celebrity chef Enrique Sanchez advised everyone “You will have to pay attention not to get mixed up”, and “Watch the screen carefully and there won't be any problems”. Unfortunately they spoke too soon, as the screen cut to an advert for coffee featuring scenes of Andalucia, and when it returned to Almeria the first chime had already rung. To make things worse, after the third chime the transmission switched back to another advert, this time for the Jerez Moto GP, which was abruptly cut short to return viewers to the Almeria for the 9th chime. The presenters did not realize what had happened, nor did most of Andalucia, who were still fixed to television set waiting for the chimes to ring in 2015. Viewers were left without having completed the ceremony of eating the 12 grapes - some had started but not finished, others hadn't even had their first grape.
The 12 lucky grapes bring good luck. It is worth mentioning that failing to complete the 12 grapes within the chimes, is not a good idea. This was not the first time there have been problems with the campanadas on TV. In 1989 presenter Marisa Naranjo (TV1) got mixed up with the cuatro cuartos (four chimes to sound the final quarter of the hour before the main twelve chimes), and confused the nation.In 1994 Carmen Sevilla welcomed everybody into 1964. Nowadays we have social media, whose immediacy and global spread offer an unforgiving combination when things go wrong, spiced up with plenty of Andalucian humour.
The hashtag #canalsur became number one trending topic on Twitter in Spain, and even reached number two in the world. “In Andalucia because of the cuts we now only have 3 grapes not 12”, “We are stuck in 2014”, “My family have been ready to eat the grapes since 00.00 and are still waiting” were a few of the tweets posted. You can see a number of amusing videos on YouTube of families who recorded their get-togethers at midnight as they awaited the chimes and then got confused – one has been watched by nearly 250,000 people. In another, a young gentleman finds a saucepan to ring in the New Year. Canal Sur issued an apology and announced that an investigation was centered on its Emisiones y Continuidad department and clarified the error was not Almeria’s fault. Yesterday evening, New Year’s Day, it was announced that the director of this department had resigned.
Fortunately the coffee advert featured classic Andalucian scenes such as Alhambra, Cadiz pavilion, Malaga port, Jaen Cathedral, Alcazaba de Almeria and not something less complimentary, since the videos have gone viral. It may be a good year for tourism in 2015, with so many people watching YouTube videos featuring Andalucia's highlights, as part of the farcical few first minutes of the new year of Canal Sur. Personally, I think the only way for Canal Sur to achieve closure on this incident, is organise a rerun in August. This would not be without precedent; residents of the village of Bérchules in Granada have done this since 1995, after a power cut on New Year's Eve 1994 cut short their celebrations. The summertime grape-taking has become a cult tourist attraction. Let’s welcome in the New Year again, but this time not in the freezing cold.