SANTIAGO – Yellow panties are one popular charm for Chileans on New Year’s Eve. As 2020 approaches, people start “preparing” (buying their lucky yellow underwear) and looking forward to their fortune come Dec. 31. But then how exactly was this Chilean superstition born, and, more importantly, what will yellow underwear bring for you this New Year?
Wear your yellow underwear! Before the champagne toasts and the New Year’s hugs, Chileans will be preparing for this new cycle by buying a nice pair of yellow underwear.
According to the superstition, if one wears yellow underwear on New Year’s Eve, fortune and much money will come throughout the whole year. No other specifications to follow: if you want to be financially blessed or very lucky for 12 months, wear a pair of simple, plain yellow underwear.
As the New Year approaches, it is therefore common to see Chileans buying or preparing their lucky undies for the night and yellow underwear is sold in mass quantities throughout the country during the holiday season.
Yellow Underwear: The Underpants of Fortune
It is hard to trace back the exact origin of the yellow New Year panties superstition, and there are no records of a unifying or specific origin story.
Nevertheless, a popular theory says that this color is commonly associated with gold, a precious metal and symbol of wealth throughout history.
Another popular origin story is that the yellow refers to the sun, representing limitless energy and eternity, according to news outlet Capital.
Why underwear? According to an investigation by BioBioChile, the use of special underwear is << ahem >> symbolism for that particular area of the body, which can be related with “abundance” in all aspects – especially when it comes to passion and fertility.
A Chilean New Year
Yellow is not the only color to attract fortune to your New Year. Another variation is to wear red underwear, this time if you want to find love – or for any other romantic wish to come true.
The colored undergarment superstition is one of the most common charms for New Year’s fortune, but when the date comes, a full spectrum of customs and superstitions also join the table.
- Chileans can be seen eating 12 grapes at midnight, which guarantees great fortune for each of the 12 months of the year.
- They can also put a handful of lentils in their pocket (or wallet) during the night, to expect loads of money during this new cycle.
- Some couples place a golden ring in their champagne glass too, with which they will toast together for a new year of stability.
- There are also superstitions for more specific wishes if luck is not the only thing one wants. Chilean families might go for a walk around the block at midnight, pulling empty suitcases behind them. This particular superstition promises a year full of travelling.
Why Do We Have Superstitions?
Superstitions are common for New Year’s Eve in Chile, as the date represents the beginning of a new cycle, and the time to renew energies through very particular rituals.
In a TED-Ed study, Stuart Vyse explores the general phenomenon of these practices. He says that many superstitions can be traced back to specific times in history or supernatural beliefs.
Even if they have no logical explanations anymore, people continue to follow them today. Sometimes by psychological bias (casualties can make a superstition appear true); sometimes by cultural memory (“Since [many superstitions] do not require much effort, following [a superstition] is often easier that consciously resisting it,” says Vyse); and, Vyse and TED aside, sometimes just for fun.
This all allows a superstition to continue being taught through generations; despite its participants logically understanding that it makes no sense at all.
According to Memoria Chilena, the history of Chilean superstitions goes back to the Spanish colonization, where syncretism caused many practices and cults to be born – most of them not fitting quite well into the Catholic faith the Spanish meant to introduce.
Some invented, some unchanged, many beliefs and superstitions remained through the history of Chile, and they became a popular topic of investigation for 20th century intellectuals, who contributed to a strong base for a still living Chilean folklore culture that carries through to the current century.
Camila Huecho is a journalism student at Universidad de La Frontera in Temuco, currently interning at Chile Today. As a freelance illustrator and Fellow at the Melton Foundation, she works to bring information and cultures together through communications and art.