Italian Traditions for Capodanno, New Year's Eve
Almost every country and culture celebrates New Year, and Italy is no different, with many Italians continuing to hold on to traditional customs, that slightly vary from region to region. People in general hold gatherings, special dinners and exchange gifts during this period. Discover the Italian New Year traditions to know more about the ritual and festivities of this awaited holiday.
Cotechino e Lenticchie
When it comes to the Cenone, the New Year’s Eve dinner, we tend to prefer home organized gatherings, maybe at some friends' place, rather than head out to a restaurant - although plenty of them offer fixed priced menus and post-dinner entertainment for the occasion. For the Cenone, it is tradition to eat cotechino e lenticchie (pig’s trotter and lentils); you might see many supermarkets selling pre-packed trotters before New Year’s Eve. Eating pig's trotter and lentils before midnight brings luck for the New Year: pig’s trotters contains a high fat content and symbolises abundance while, lentils, round, flat and golden-brown in color, resemble gold coins. Eat them both, and plenty of money will get into your pocket in the new year.
Us Italians love fireworks, and not just in the summer, when almost every town has dramatic displays at the conclusion of their own patron saint celebration. On New Year’s Eve, the end of one year and beginning of another is celebrated with a riot of bangs and colours. Big cities set their fireworks shows at midnight, but also families have fun setting their own in their gardens or neighboorhood. The habit of using fireworks on New Year's Eve is apparently linked to demons and evil spirits, who don't like loud noises, and keeps them away.
Kissing Under the Mistletoe
In most of the world, kissing under the mistletoe is a Christmas tradition. In Italy for some reason, we like to do it on New Year's Eve. You will notice that almost any house that you will go to, won't miss a mistletoe hanging above the main door. Mistletoe has been known for centuries as a magical plant, associated, especially in the Celtic and Viking tradition, to fertility and love: for this reason, kissing under the mistletoe on New Year's Eve is thought to enhance people chances to find love.
Keeping a red undergarment on you on New Year's Eve, symbolically helps to fend off evil and negativity, so that you can start the new year with the right foot. It is important, however, to remember a couple of things: first of all, you red undergarment must be brand new and ideally has to come to you as a gift. In other words, if you buy it for yourself, you're cheating. You will see that right after Christmas, shop windows will be full of red undergarments both for men and women.
Throwing old things out of the window
Even though it used to be way more popular in the past, throwing old belongings out of the window is probably one of the most Italian of all Italian New Year's Eve traditions. Known in the whole country, but considered Neapolitan in its essence, this tradition consisted of throwing old pots, pans, clothes, appliances, and even furniture out the window to let go past unhappiness and prepare for the New Year. Today this practice has been abandoned by most Italians and those still observing the tradition do it inside the house, against a wall or on the floor.
To many of us in Italy, it's not New Year's Eve unless we play at least one game of tombola. Just like bingo, tombola is one of those cross-generational games you very likely have played once in your lifetime, possibly with your grandparents and, if you're Italian, on New Year's Eve.
If you happen to be in Italy over Capodanno, you're now ready to participate with skill and knowledge to at least some of our favorite rituals, buon anno!