Celebrating the New Year in Sol, the Heart of Madrid

Celebrating New Year’s Eve in Sol, Madrid is the Spanish equivalent to celebrating New Year’s Eve in Times Square.

So naturally, that’s how I wanted to ring in 2020.

Most NYEs for me have been boring. Usually, I’ve worked to get holiday pay. Better to get paid more than pay a lot more to go to the same bars, right?

But the 2010s have been an epic decade for me. I’ve traveled to 14 countries (11 of them by myself), taught thousands of students, made friends from people all over the world, worked and lived in three countries, and created an environment of love and positivity for myself. And so much more.

I started the decade in confusion and restlessness, and left it with gratitude and excitement for what’s to come.

So, here’s how I rang in the new decade!




I met my friend at her old apartment in Sol. Her Colombian friends made us a New Year’s Eve dinner: hallacas, rolls, and a vegetable mix of asparagus and broccoli I brought. This is what happens when you ask the vegetarian to bring a dish to the party. We also had tinto and cake.

Until 11:30, we were just eating, drinking, and hanging out. It felt so good to be eating Colombian food again. And it felt so good to be with great people at the end of 2019, talking about anything and everything.



When we left, however, Sol had been blocked off. I knew Sol was going to be blocked off. I didn’t think they meant the plaza. My friend lived a block away, however, so we still got a good view of the plaza.

Oh look, another party I’m not invited to. Sounds like middle school.

At first, we felt a bit disappointed that were weren’t in the middle of the party. But then, as I looked around, I thought: is this not enough? I’m in Madrid with great people, my friends cooked me a great meal, and we hung out in her warm apartment. In my opinion, that was more fun than standing in the cold for three hours with a bunch of strangers and worrying about getting pickpocketed.

Around 15 minutes before midnight, there was a light show that was projected on the buildings. We then waited for the 12 bells at midnight.

Spain’s NYE tradition is to eat 12 grapes at the strike of each bell. Each grape represents a month. The tradition states that, if you eat these 12 grapes, you will have good luck during the year. Grape sales are probably quite high in Spain in December.

Minutes before midnight with my grapes!

When I first heard this tradition, my thoughts were: chocking hazard.

My mom even texted me, saying she’d heard this tradition on the news and asked if it was true. Having my mom say “Be careful with the grapes” isn’t something I thought I’d ever hear from my mom, or anyone, but here we are.

One of my Spanish roommates suggested peeling the skin off the grapes before the New Year to make it easier to swallow them. A few other people have suggested to eat something else, like olives. I was able to peel half my grapes before heading out.

Anyway, at midnight, the bells rang. The problem is, we couldn’t quite hear the bells. I looked around at the other tourists, who looked just as confused as we were. Then, everyone started cheering. Confetti flew into the air. Was that it?

Not wanting to push my luck, I swallowed all 12 grapes in two mouthfuls. Because that is much less of a choking hazard than swallowing 12 grapes, one by one, in 30 seconds.

Close enough.

And then, the police released the barriers from the plaza, and let us all in. So we were going to get to join the party after all!

To everyone who didn’t invite me to their parties, I have a message for you: HAHAHA THEY LET ME INTO THIS PARTY AND IT’S MUCH COOLER THAN YOURS EVER WERE. Okay now I’m done being petty.

Confetti and empty bottles were all over the ground. People were kissing, taking pictures, leaving for bars. Cleaning trucks had already appeared. My friends and I took pictures and videos, and I was even able to video call my mom so she could see what the fun was about.

After, we looked for a bar or a disco, but everywhere either had a long line, or an expensive cover charge. So we decided to go back to my friend’s apartment, drink more tinto, and play Parcheesi until five in the morning.

Honestly, you can’t get better than that. Good food, good people, cheap wine, and in a beautiful city.


I’m a week in 2020. As for updates on my resolutions(which I prefer to call lifestyle changes):

  • Drink 8 glasses of water a day. I downloaded an app that keeps track of how many glasses of water or herbal tea I drink. I’m at an average of 500ml/900ml per day. I probably drink more, but I don’t include coffee. In the States, I had a glass of water right next to my alarm, so I had no choice but to drink a glass of water when I got up. I should do the same here.
  • Join a gym, and go at least 5 days per week. I shall be joining a gym this week. I’m waiting for my gym shoes to come in the mail. At the moment, all I have for footwear is boots and high heels. However, I downloaded another app that keeps track of how many steps I take. Yesterday, I got 10,000! I used to walk much more than that in the States, but I was exhausted after yesterday. I need to get back into the rhythm of walking more, especially since Madrid is such a beautiful city to walk around in.
  • Read a book per week. It’s one week in, and I am a little over halfway through my first book, The Four Agreements. I’d love to do monthly book reviews, or nuggets of information I find while reading over the month.
  • Develop a Morning Pages practice. I haven’t done any writing yet. None. I was enjoying sleeping in until 10am on my vacation. Now that I’m back to work, there’s no reason for me not to do my morning pages en español (for the point below).
  • Take the DELE C1 exam. I’m pretty sure I’m one of the last people with an Internet connection to get a Netflix account, but thanks to a certain someone, I now have a Netflix account. This means I can watch movies and series in Spanish in my free time to practice my listening skills.
  • Update this blog at least once every 10 days. I’ve actually been good about this one!
  • Take a picture every day. I’ve been mostly good about this. Below are some of the photos of my daily life this past week.

I’m far from perfect, but as I’ve read in The Four Agreements, just do your best, and don’t beat yourself up if you fall short, because you did your best. I think self-forgiveness is one of the biggest and most important lessons I learned in the past year.

3 thoughts on “Celebrating the New Year in Sol, the Heart of Madrid

  1. Aunt Cherie Benisatto

    Wow, McKenna! You are making me feel sooooo lazy! Great job with all your resolutions, and maybe I’ll start one or two. 🤓 Anyway, I love reading your blogs. Keep writing, my beautiful Niece! Love you,
    Aunt Cherie


  2. Pingback: 21 Millennial and Gen Z Slang Words I Didn’t Understand When I Came Back to the USA – Inspired Around the World

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s