Myths, Legends & Folk Tales

Myths, legends & folklore Andalucia has many stories to tell   

          

Every country has its fair share of folktales and legends with SPAIN certainly not being the exception.  ANDALUCIA in particular, which has a rich history, has some mysterious, spooky, scary stories; we have selected a few to share with you.  Are they true? Not true? Make yourself comfortable in the safest place in your house and join us for the tale of...

RATONCITO PEREZ is the Spanish version of the tooth fairy. In 1894, Luis Colomo was asked to write a story for the young King Alphonso XIII, who had just lost a tooth. Colomo, inspired by the character of a mouse called Raton Perez, which had originally appeared in a story a few years ago, created Ratoncito Perez, a mouse who lived in a box of cookies with his family in Madrid, and ran through pipes to reach the bedrooms of the kids who had lost their teeth.

It is said that EL COCO would kidnap or eat children who were troublemakers and disobeyed their parents’ wishes, snatching them from their beds while they were asleep. This story is synonymous with those of the boogeyman. The exploits and tales of this monster are often told to naughty and misbehaving children. Spaniards often say that EL COCO stalks the city streets in the twilight hours of the night with a large blackened bag looking for his next victims. Now, parents sing the lullaby to children to get them to sleep, telling them “Duermete niño, duermete ya, que viene el coco y te comerá (Sleep child, sleep now… or else the Coco will come and eat you.).”

Another myth is that of the DUENDES, mischievous gnome-like creatures who often play pranks on or thieve from unsuspecting people.  Their name originates from the phrase “dueño de casa” or “possessor of a house,” because they were initially depicted as a malicious spirit inhabiting a home.  Many believe that they are mischievous and malevolent spirits that infiltrate the homes of people and revel in wreaking havoc and chaos.

EL SAETON EL SIERRA MORENA tells of a snake-shaped animal, dark green in color, large in size and with an enormous head, which can make prodigious leaps, and whose poison is deadly, it may also have hypnotic abilities. No SAETON has ever been hunted, nor has a corpse been found that supports popular legend. On the contrary, there are many testimonies that assure that said animal exists, either because they have simply been sneakily sighted, or because the encounter has been more prolonged.

                                                                                      

SEVILLE is a city with a rich history that also has quite a few ghosts. The best documented is that of SISTER URSULA, a nun of the Order of Charity who appears in the HOSPITAL OF THE FIVE WOUNDS, a Renaissance building which now houses the Parliament of Andalucia. She is said to wander through the corridors of the building and frequent the sick room and the old sacristy.

The DIPUTACION DE SEVILLA ghosts wander the corridors of the old barracks and no one dares to walk along Green Street, where there is a passage from the old Jewish quarter, on the last Friday night of each month.  There is also a gentleman in a cloak and ruff said to inhabit  Franks Pharmacy in the High Street.     

The legend of the BRITISH INSTITUTE in SEVILLE tells a story of when the building was being reformed they discovered under the stairway, giving access to the upper floor, human remains of someone boarded up and buried there.  When the remains were removed the paranormal manifestations started inside the building. Teachers and pupils saw the ghost of a woman dressed in the clothes in which she died – around 1920, descending down the main staircase and disappearing though the door which opens to the chapel, which is currently blocked, and on other occasions she was seen just gliding down the stairs. People who have followed her noted when she started floating downstairs and is about to arrive on the ground floor she vanishes. She has also been seen wandering around the colonnaded patio.

The FACULTY OF FINE ARTS is one of the most famous paranormal sources of Seville. There are many unexplained events in the place that triggered the strike by workers and even student demonstrations. Lights that turn on and off alone, temperature changes and strange noises continue to plague the daily life in this university building. These strange events are thought to be occurring as the consequence of the death of SANTIAGO, a maintenance worker, whose soul has been trapped in the building although Santiago died at home of a heart attack. The next morning a strange presence filled the faculty and all plants in the garden that were planted and cared for by Santiago were aggressively torn up.

Despite its elegant and bourgeois appearance, LA CASA LAS SIRENAS, located in the Alameda de Hercules hides a story that the members of the house wanted to hide. The house dates from 1864 and has changed hands several times over the course of the twentieth century until it fell into ruins in the eighties.

Different inhabitants of the house over the years have seen ethereal figures in the rooms and heard blows coming from nowhere, the sound of non-existent footsteps and even murmurs that drifted away into the air. Local residents commented that tunnels passed under the house and that, in addition, a ghost lived in the house.

The PORTILLA family was one of the wealthiest families in Seville who enjoyed good social status. Nothing should affect the good name of Portilla, so when one of the members of the family was discovered to be homosexual this could not be allowed to be public knowledge. The family member was locked in a room in the attic of the house. The prisoner could not stand his confinement and gradually fell into a deep sadness until one day he died.  Strange cries can be heard coming from the house and there are nights when a figure appears through an attic window.  Perhaps his death was natural, perhaps caused, but everyone agreed that the supposed ghost that lived in the ruins of the house was his: since he had been tied to the house in life (literally), he was still tied after death.

Tucked away in a little square between the Plaza Dona Elvira and Calle Agua is the scene of one of SEVILLE’S popular stories, the legend of SUSONA BEN-SUSON. The spot is marked by a tile on the wall bearing a picture of a skull, which marks the place where in times gone by hung the head of the beautiful SUSONA, a silent witness to the tragedy that she had brought upon herself.

Our story takes place in the year 1480, in the final years of the Jewish community in SEVILLE. By this time, as the newly-emerging kingdom of Spain sought to strengthen itself through enforced conformity to Catholicism, many Jews had already left or converted to Christianity, but suspicion among some Christians that these conversos were not true converts, and hoped to bring about a restoration Judaism, had recently led to the creation of the Spanish Inquisition, charged with rooting out heresy and religious dissent wherever it was to be found.  Don Diego de Susona, a wealthy merchant, was one such converso, and alarmed by the threat to his position, he convened a secret meeting of prominent conversos to discuss the possibility of armed insurrection.

His daughter SUSONA, however, had a Christian boyfriend, a young noble, who she feared would be put in danger by an uprising, and she revealed the plot to him. Her boyfriend promptly reported them to the authorities, and the conspirators were duly arrested and brought before the Inquisition, tried and executed.

Stricken with remorse at the consequences of her action, SUSONA never again left her house, and when she died she had her head hung up outside the house (where it remained as late as the 18th century) as a testament to her grief and the duplicity of Christians.

The old building of the current Faculty of Law, Economics and Business Studies at the University of CORDOBA dates from the XIII century and is one of the oldest educational institutions in the country, and is believed to be one of the most haunted destinations in Spain. Before becoming a school it began as a Carmelite convent and then used as a maternity hospital, madhouse, Hospice and even Military hospital. Nowadays, the ghosts of women who lost their lives during childbirth, the teacher who died of a sudden heart attack and a vicious poltergeist of a solider calling “I am going to kill you”, who lost his life at an unspecified time are said to haunt the place.

In GRANADA you’d expect a few ghosts to be merrily wandering ancient buildings such as the Alhambra Palace, perched high on a hilltop overlooking once-Islamic Granada the and the winding, narrow, cobbled streets. Once a Moorish Palace, the Moorish sultan discovered an affair between his favourite concubine and one of his courtiers. The lovers were parted and the courtier (along with his entire family) was executed. In the palace there is a Parador which is reputed to contain the sad and broken-hearted spirits of the tragic lovers, prevented from being together.

In the pub "EL GRANERO" in the city of Granada a monk named Lorenzo appears. It is in part of the Palacio de Abrantes, which was built in the sixteenth century.

Those who have seen the face of FATHER BENITO far well understood why the old Provincial de Granada, Inns on the Street, has more legends and apparitions from which anyone can absorb in a few words.  Built on a former convent with adjacent cemetery ghostly figures wandering the halls, moving objects alone, cries in the middle of the night ... just some of the ghostly happenings.

Photographs of mysterious spirits have been captured at the PARADOR DE JAEN, a thirteenth century Arab fortress overlooking the rustic Andalucia landscape was refurbished and opened to tourists in the late 1960s.  Although no-one can figure out who these hapless souls are, or why their spirits still roam the halls. According to records, a guest in the castle’s Room 22 claimed to have been awakened in the middle of the night by dull thuds upon the door and a woman’s cry. In 1984, a team of paranormal psychiatrists was called in to investigate, and they concluded that this wasn’t just another ghost story – the room was, in fact, haunted by the spirit of a young woman who had died of heartbreak there several centuries ago.

Room 22 isn’t the only spooky spot in this haunted hotel. The castle is also said to be home to the spirit of a prisoner nicknamed Terrible Lagarto, or Terrible Lizard, who died of hunger long ago while locked up within the fortress. Many have encountered this harmless ghost, who is known to wander the halls and, on occasion, momentarily possess distracted guests.

The BELMEZ FACES is an alleged paranormal phenomenon in a private house in the village of Belmez de la Moraleda, Jaen province. First appearing in 1971 when Maria Gomez Camara spotted one on her kitchen floor. Her son and husband took a pick axe to the floor, destroying it, and laying down a new one, but the male and female faces have continued to appear and terrifyingly continued to grow in both size and intensity.  Many have argued over the years that it is a hoax and the faces have been painted on.

Located at the Pereira family home at Calle Real 5, Bélmez de la Moraleda, the Bélmez faces have been responsible for bringing large numbers of sightseers to Bélmez. The phenomenon is considered by some parapsychologists the best-documented and "without doubt the most important paranormal phenomenon in the 20th century.

Various faces have appeared and disappeared at irregular intervals since 1971 and have been frequently photographed by the local newspapers and curious visitors. Many Bélmez residents believe that the faces were not made by human hand. Some investigators believe that it is a thoughtographic phenomenon subconsciously produced by the former owner of the house, María Gómez Cámara – now deceased ("Thoughtography" is considered a form of psychokinesis among parapsychologists).

Skeptical researchers point out that unlike other psychic claims this case is falsifiable. Since the faces of Bélmez are fixed on whitewash of cement, scientists are able to analyze the molecular changes that took place in such mass of concrete.[citation needed] Skeptics have performed extensive tests on the faces and do believe that fakery has been involved.

But whether they are real or not the house has certainly attracted many believers and curious onlookers over the years. 

                                                                                         

Many of the spookiest tales originate right here in MALAGA, including the haunted house of CORTIJO JURADO, also known as CASA ENCANTADA, in Campanillas, Malaga. It has a reputation of being one of the most haunted houses in the province. The now dilapidated house was built in the mid 19th century the HEREDIA family, one of the wealthiest in Andalucia. The mansion included a chapel, tower, steeple, patio, utility rooms, tunnels, passages, crypts and stables.  A total of 365 doors and windows hidden clues that suggest a strange ritual but there are also tunnels, passages, crypts and a well.

In 1925 the property passed to is new owners, the Jurado family. It is known in Malaga as ‘the haunted mansion’, not only for its ghostly appearance, but due to numerous reports of mysterious voices and strange sounds that have been reportedly heard there without explanation.

Legend has it that the HEREDIA family, together with other rich families in the area, kidnapped young girls, aged between 18 and 21, and subjected them to sinister satanic rituals, involving rape and murder. The bodies of their victims are said to be buried deep within the property. When Manuel Austin Heredia, a prominent Malaga figure, died his heirs inherited the property and many strange events are rumored to have taken place in its walls, including satanic rituals, perverse sexual acts and human sacrifices. 

The legend speaks of crimes carried out by people of high society of the 19th century, men who could bribed to escape justice. There are believed to be secret chambers and tunnels under the house where the girls were kept before their death lead directly to where the bodies were found and rooms said to contain torture apparatus. Unexplained voices and other sounds have been reported coming from the building in the years since. Legends are partly tied to the disappearance of several young women with their bodies found dead three days later on the riverbank close to the house, though police records do not tie the HEREDIA family members to the mysterious disappearance.. 

Whilst it is true that many young girls did disappear during this period, nothing was ever proven to connect their disappearance to the Heredia family. Many say they used their money and influence to evade justice. Whatever the truth of the matter, paranormal enthusiasts maintain that the pain and suffering that took place within those grim walls has led to inexplicable ghostly phenomena.

The impressive farmhouse stands on a hill flanked by the Guadalhorce Rive. If the walls could talk we would possibly be petrified by terror. Local people speak of strange phenomena which often manifests itself, strange lights in the middle of the night with neither hand is the cause also common to hear knocks of doubtful origin. 

     

Many stories and legends have been told around the ARAB CASTLE OF TURON, near Ardales, Málaga and the valley beneath it. Legend has it that a secret passage goes down to the river, and that it holds the treasure of the Arabs, hidden there before the Castillians took over the Castle. Tales involving SIR JAMES DOUGLAS, OMAR BEN AFSUN from Bobastro, Kings and Princesses, hidden treasures and ghostly figures seen at night and even in full daytime. There have even been recordings of paranormal activity. Local people say that at the beginning of the XX century there was a deep tunnel with stairs, into which the kids throwed stones not hearing them touching the bottom. Also there are stories of people being seen at night digging at the Castle.

Without a doubt, the most famous Malaga legend of them all is that of "PENA DE LOS ENAMORADOS" known as "LOVER'S ROCK".. A story of forbidden love, dating back to the time of the Moorish ruling in the 14th and 15th centuries. The star-crossed lovers were the beautiful MOORISH PRINCESS TAZGONA and a young Christian solider TELLO who was taken prisoner by her father in Archidona. When Tagzona, pushed by curiosity goes to the dungeons to see the prisoners, lays her eyes on the handsome Tello. One single glimpse is enough for these two young people to fall in love. But unfortunately, their love is an impossible one. Not only they belong to different religions and enemy armies, but Tagzona was already promised by her father to marry another man. In order to fulfill their love, they decide to run away, but unfortunately their plan is uncovered by her father.

Followed by the angry parent and his armed guards the running couple gets to the bottom of a big mountain, and decides to climb it, trying desperately to escape the pursuers. Unfortunately, when they get to the top they understand there is nowhere else to go. With the arrows pointed at them and being told to give up their dream of getting married and living happily ever after, the embraced couple decided to hurl themselves into the abyss. They chose to die together than to live without each other. The legend has it that the dismayed fathers of the pair, who had led the chase, now left helpless at the top of the mountain, decided to put aside their difference and their fight for the ruling of the city in order to live in relative peace (at least until the next battle).

Today the unusual looking rock draws attention due to its positioning in the middle of the green fields and endless olive groves up to the clear and blue sky, and is visible from any of the main roads into the town. It has the profile of what seems to be shaped as a laying down human head which had led to it being called ‘THE SLEEPING GIANT” or “EL INDIO” THE  INDIAN. It is an impressive landmark still surrounded by the tragedy of the legend of Tello and Tagzona the two young lovers.

Staying with Málaga, a visit to the ENGLISH CEMETERY will also ring a fair share of scare…it’s said that the last person to be buried there, who was also the caretaker, wanders his former workplace in the dead of night, and folk have reputedly been lightly touched and felt the brushing of his hands past them…well, it serves you right if you’re going to wander a graveyard at night…!     

               

LAS HURDES in northern Caceres, Extremadura was until recently one of the most undeveloped corners of Europe and one of the poorest in Spain. In 2001, thanks to the Plan Hidologico Nacional scheme water supply to the region was improved.

LAS HURDES is full of legends, and myths are even more abundant that waterfalls. For centuries Las Hurdes was thought to be inhabited by spirits and ancient documents record the founding of monasteries as the best way to frighten them off. There are many stories of strange lights that float in the rivers and kill the walkers as they alight on land.  In one of them a mule driver came across a mysterious light and died shortly afterwards of a strange fever. Other local folks talk of UFOs. Until a short time ago Las Hurdes was an isolated, remote spot, ideal for a visitor from another planet.

They say that a land worker saw a triangular light, and on turning around he heard a noise like the gnashing of teeth and saw a black and famished figure covered with a type of cape or smock. He ran away but the figure was seen in other places. The people organized hunts and in one of them chasers were on the point of catching the figure. Suddenly they saw triangular lights in the sky and the figure disappeared for ever.

This place feeds many legends as, for example, the enormous black bird, headless man Rubiako (Rubiaco). And legends still exist…) Some people say that hurdanos are very aggressive and stuck in their beliefs. That they continue to honor only intergeneric marriages and have huge list of genetic diseases that mankind overcame many times ago. Who wants to go there and check?   

         

The SERRANIA DE RONDA is known for its legends—a myriad of stories about different bandits and mythical characters—that draw tourists from all over Spain to Ronda to see where these legends are rumored to have happened.

There is a legend in BENADALID about a beautiful young Christian lady who fell in love with a Muslim man. Their love was impossible, but it was strong. At that time love affairs between Moors and Christians were punishable by death, so they made arrangements to run away in the dark of night in search of the WILD ROSE plant, which according to legend was lethal. This plant had hidden powerful essences; those who pricked themselves with its thorns had to react immediately otherwise they bled to death under its narcotic effect. When the lovers found the rose they decided to prick themselves in order to die together, and falling prey to an unyielding society and an irresistible love, brought their lives to an end.

There is a legend that tells of a great plague epidemic that the town of RONDA suffered from. The residents, knowing the miracles of the patron saint of MONTEJAQUE, the VIRGEN DE LA ESCARIHUELA asked if they could bring the Virgen home with them and parade her around the town to reap the benefits of her mystical powers. Legend has it that as the processors moved away from MONTEJAQUE, the weight of the Virgin increased more and more. Until a moment came when they could no longer advance and had to return, but it was not their effort in vain, but the next day they received a message from Ronda arrived saying that the epidemic had subsided.

Found within Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park, located in the municipality of PARAUTA, is a myth connected to the PINSAPO tree. As the legend goes the PINSAPO tree grew wherever a woman was buried to give everyone who passed through the area hope as they dealt with personal struggles. According to the legend this Spanish fir, the Pinsapo de las Escaleretas, grew as “a lighthouse and guide to travellers”, on the same place of the burial site of a local lady whose kindness and hospitality with the passer-by was revered among those who knew her.

The GENAL RIVER runs through the town of BENARRABA, and there is a myth about how it got its unique, CRIMSON COLOUR! According to legend dating back to the time of the BERIMERINE tribe settlements, a family of dyers, who used to live and work on the banks of the Genal River were famous for their special dyes, especially the crimson colour ones. Due to the beauty and purity of the dyes the local people began to say that the river and the pools had some kind of magic properties. However, these “magical properties” were really the expert work of ABDESALAM BEN ARRABAT, who was an alchemist by trade. He elaborated some mixes of acids and sulphurs or nitrates, which today are quite common, but quite unknown at that time.

Legend has it that KING ABOMELIC of Ronda once built a residence for his daughter, PRINCESS ALGATOISA in the place where today is ALGATOCIN, in Genal Valley. In a sad twist to the tale, the “residence” was really more of a prison where the poor princess was held captive. ALGATOISA has been renovated and decorated by the owner and is dedicated to rural accommodation.

                                                                                     

There are, however, some stories with much happier endings, such as the one which took place on the fertile lands of the Guadalhorce Valley, featuring Abindarráez, Jarifa and Rodrigo de Narváez. Rodrigo captured Abindarráez when he was on the way to Coín to marry his betrothed, Jarifa. Abindarráez, who was from the Abencerrajes family, pleaded with his captor to let him go so he could get married and Rodrigo did so, but only on one condition: that he would return three days later. Not only did Abindarráez return as promised, but Jarifa came with him. In view of this unconditional love, Narváez decided to let them both go.

In PERIANA is the legend of a beautiful Christian captive, Sara, who falls in love with a handsome Muslim. Faced with opposition to their romance the couple flees and took the drastic decision: to throw themselves off the Marchamonas hill, which is not far the village.

In the hamlet of DAIMALOS in the municipality of ARENAS is a fountain known as ‘FUENTE DEL AMOR” the Fountain of Love. There, they say that a young woman, on the advice of a saint, drank water from the fountain several times a day. Within a short time, not only had she found a boyfriend but she also recommended the practice to her single girlfriends.

THE CURSEd FIRE OF LAROYA 

In 1945 Laroya, a small town in the Sierra de los Filabres, Almeria was the scene of some unexplained fires which seemed to appear from nowhere. It all began on the hot afternoon of June 16 1945 when 14-year old Maria Martinez was playing in the countryside; a thick fog had been covering the town for several days. Suddenly the girl’s clothes caught fire. Farmhands working at the Cortijo Pitango were alerted by her screaming and rushed to put out the fire. When her mother came for her, Maria spoke of a ball of fire which had landed on her apron. Her mother put her to bed, but while she was sleeping the same thing happened again although the fire did her no harm.

What they didn’t know was that at the same time, and until the fog cleared around 11pm, other fires had broken out spontaneously at farmhouses in the area causing no harm to anyone although there was considerable material damage. Groups of people began to search the area for the culprit and the Guardia Civil from Macael were called in, but they quickly realized this case was out of their league when the jacket one of them had left on a hook burst into flames. The Civil Governor was alerted and specialist engineers were sent to the town.

One June 23, a week after the first fire, another one broke out at another farmhouse in the town, and this was followed by several more in the coming days, all at local farmhouses. The engineers’ first hypothesis was related to the strange cloud which had been in the area, as a similar phenomenon had been reported in November 1741 when a cloud reached the mountains of Almeria city sand burning sparks fell from the sky, setting crops alight. However they had come from an Italian volcano. 

In this case the cloud disappeared but the fires continued. Local people took all their belongings out of their homes worried that they would be destroyed and the local priest rang the church bells to alert people. Some people began to speak of a legend in which a Muslim man was burned alive by the Inquisition in the same place where the first fire appeared. Others said it was the work of the devil because there was the smell of sulphur, or spoke of having seen the figure of a ghostly boy surrounded by the flames floating in the air above the town. 

The same day the engineers left the town, June 30, the fires began again. Surprising the first victim was again Maria Martinez, who was working in the fields with her father when her dress caught fire. Later that day, a police corporal who owned a nearby property, also found his coat catching fire, and for the following days the “cursed fire”, as locals now called it, continued to wreck havoc around the town, and Maria Martinez saw for the fourth time how her clothes suddenly caught fire. 

Locals said the fire seemed to have a will of its own, as when one was put out, another would break out elsewhere. Some people claimed to have seen a strange light just before the fire, others spoke of fog or smoke, and some said they smelled petrol or sulphur while the rest only noticed the smell of items which were burning at the time. Putting water on the flames only made them spread more and it proved effective to cover them with blankets or stamp on them. 

On July 7 1945, engineers returned to investigate believing that there might be deposits of oil underground. But when the fires started to occur in front of their eyes and the dress of another little girl caught alight and burst into flames, and, in one case, their equipment was reduced to cinders, they fled the town, never to be heard from again. 

The fires were no longer mentioned in the national news, mainly due the censure of the Franco régime, and shortly afterwards even the local press ceased to report on the strange goings-on. The fires stopped suddenly after a while, but later, petrol was found at the farmhouse where Maria Martinez lived, and the Guardia Civil began to investigate. 

However on August 11 1945, Maria confessed that she had put it there herself in the hope that the engineers would return and explain once and for all what had caused the fires. 

Approximately 15 years later Maria committed suicide and within a few days, so did her sister and her brother who were found at the same farmhouse where it all began. No–one knows for sure exactly what happened in Laroya, although there are plenty of theories about what caused the fires including spontaneous combustion, magnetic properties of the soil, volcanic activity, gas pockets rising into the air and bursting into flames and planes flying over the area with chemical products. The truth is that to this day, exactly what happened in Laroya remains a mystery.

SPANISH SUPERSTITIONS

Many of Spain’s strange superstitions are deep-rooted in the Catholic religion, while others can be likened to old wives tales. Some are laughable and downright silly, and tiptoeing around them to avoid cultural blunders is part of the fun in living in Spain.

Tuesday the 13th brings the "mala suerte", as the word for Tuesday in Spanish, martes, is related to the Roman God of War. As the old saying goes, “En martes ni te cases, ni te embarques, ni de tu casa te apartes.” Or,” on Tuesday, don’t marry, don’t start a journey nor leave your house”.

Not only should you avoid bringing a used broom into a new house, but sweeping over someone’s feet will mean that that person will never marry.

Leaving your hat on top of a bed signifies that something bad will happen. Most often, this is related to losing one’s memory, so be sure to leave your hat on a coat rack instead.

In Spain, the salt must never be passed or spilled, as this brings bad luck.

Don’t buy family or friends knives or scissors as a gift. Tradition says that this means that the relationship will be broken. Apparently taping a penny to a blade wards off divorce lawyers.

                                                                                      

The colour yellow traditionally represents sulphur and the devil. There are a number of superstitions surrounding yellow: you're not supposed to wear yellow on an important day, such as for an exam or interview, as it will surely bring you bad luck. Don't buy yellow clothes as a gift – it is not done to gift a friend or family member with yellow clothes. And certainly don't give yellow clothes as a gift for a baby! Apparently it will bring the evil eye.

Ever wondered why there are so many cactuses on window sills in Spain? That's because it is widely believed in Spain that a cactus can ward away evil.

Spaniards traditionally eat 12 grapes on the 12 strokes of midnight on New Year’s Eve. For even more luck and prosperity for the year ahead, wearing red underwear on the last night of the year will also help.

Always make sure there is an extra chair at your table in Spain: for your handbag. Spaniards believe that leaving your handbag on the floor will result in you losing all your money.