Fun Undies

“There’s a story behind everything,” I used to tell my English Comp students at UNM-Taos every semester. “Look for the story.”

One of the ways I strove to drive this point home was to have an end-of-semester party in which each student brought a dish of everyday, popular food, accompanied by the story behind it. The food was spread out, buffet-style, on long tables against one wall, and the students’ one-page stories in the form of short essays were tacked on the wall above each dish.

Take chocolate-chip cookies, for instance, which at least one student always brought. There’s a fascinating, true story behind this favorite American cookie’s origin. (To learn it, Google origin of Toll House Cookies.) Rice, of course, has an ancient history, as does tortillas. (Baloney probably has a ghastly story; no one ever chose it.)

These were meant to be lessons in observation and curiosity – really noticing the things around us which we might otherwise ignore, and inquiring about them – all part of the bigger picture I was trying to convey called Critical Thinking.

The Happy Holidays banner at the superstore La Comer in SMA

I thought of this this week while doing my weekly shopping at La Comer, the large, bright, well managed superstore here in San Miguel de Allende. The holiday signs and decorations are up, holiday music is in the air, and – WHAT!? – women’s red and yellow undies are clearly on display near the checkout counters. I wondered: How many of us gringos know the story behind this seemingly innocent (after all, this is a family store) custom?

In Mexico, as in many Latin countries I’ve learned, the underwear a woman wears on New Year’s Eve is thought to have a big impact on her year ahead. Yellow undies, so the story goes, bring good financial fortune. Red undies bring luck in love.

These panties, embroidered with “Millionaire,” suggest good financial fortune
And these hope for love

I had a friend here, my age, who’s since returned to the States, who tested this hypothesis one New Year’s Eve. She wore red panties beneath her otherwise simple, classic party dress. And sure enough, she met a sweet man that night and fell in love. She became a believer.

Every culture, I suppose, has its own New Year’s Eve traditions – expressions of hope, however strange to outsiders, that the year ahead will be a good one, perhaps better than the year just passed.

My German grandmother, for example, if she was visiting, would make our family German herring salad (from jarred pickled herring, cooked cubed beets, and boiled potatoes) to bring us all good luck in the New Year. (I don’t remember her trick ever working.) She would have been horrified, I’m sure, by the thought of wearing daring red or yellow panties for the occasion.

But leave it to good-natured Mexicans to cling to this fun undies tradition. Mexicans have a way of laughing at life, I’ve observed, which is well worth emulating.

I’m now considering buying a pair of both – yellow and red – and wearing them together this New Year’s Eve because I’m in an especially hopeful mood about 2023.


38 thoughts on “Fun Undies”

  1. I Love This! I’m voting that you wear both pairs this New Years Eve! I’ll be thinking of you that way. xoxo

  2. Dear Bon,
    I think you are making a very wise choice. Clearly, Mexico is a land of enchantment and magic, in a way that puts US to shame. I predict your plan will work beautifully!

  3. They have a red tradition in Italy for New Years Eve. I didnt know about it when I has invited to a New Years Party in Venice one year. Somone told me to wear something red so I wore a red silk sari I had bought in India. But on arrival at the party I learned that the red item was supposed to be hidden and the party guests were supposed to guess what it was, and where it was hidden.
    What could I do? Well, because I was wearing a sari, my midriff was bare, so I surreptitiously took a maraschino cherry from the punch bowl and hid it in my navel! I won the party prize for the most original red item in the least suspected hiding place.

  4. Bonnie, thank you for another story about Mexican tradition and culture. You always boost me up emotionally and help me to see small but important things right before our eyes. Feliz navidad

  5. Bonnie, my Greek mother would always make sure the children had a new outfit on New Year’s Day. If she couldn’t afford the whole works, we at least had fresh new underwear. To see the New Year in with new beginnings with clothes that weren’t tainted with the previous year’s events! Its so ingrained in me that at 62, I still do it with a brightly coloured Summer dress, or shirt. I love the Mexican tradition more, though, because of the specific request to each colour. May you receive a healthy dose of both love and money, in 2023!

    1. Dear Loula — Thank you so much for sharing your mom’s New Year’s tradition! I love the “newness” of it. I’m excited about all the new that lies ahead in 2023. All best wishes to you.

  6. I love reading your blogs. This one was very funny. I am retired and have a passion for painting. I am looking forward to my visit SMA in April. Would love to meet and take you to lunch/coffee. I want to learn about living in SMA and the arts there. Fondly Sandy

  7. This is hilarious, BonnieDear! Especially your last paragraph. It reminded me of the year I moved to Taos, 2003. I was visiting a friend, David—a man who was the brother of my cousin in Denver and was in the process of dying. He was divorced and so was I, but we were just friends. On New Year’s Eve, he invited me over for red chili and beans—his Northern New Mexico specialty. Around 8, his son, daughter-in-law, and their two friends stopped by to wish David a Happy New Year. As they were leaving, I suggested I’d be right behind them. David’s son turned to me and said, “Please don’t go. Please stay here with my dad till midnight. They say that if you’re alone on New Year’s Eve, you’ll be alone for the rest of the year.” So I stayed with David till after midnight. That next year, four months later, in 2004, I met Michael, and we’ve lived happily ever after. So even though I’m not superstitious, I’m now a firm believer in that particular superstition.

  8. Ha ha!! The year I discovered this tradition along with eating grapes at midnight, I wore three pairs of undies-red, yellow and blue. I think the blue was for financial stability. They were uncomfortable and probably didn’t work but it was a great story to tell that evening!!

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