Lifestyle/ New Year’s Eve in Italy: what tradition says
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2016 is coming to an end and we need to get ready to inaugurate 2017 in the best way. After the Christmas culinary binge, it’s time to be prepared for the big dinner at the end of the year; the biggest and richest that ruins every diet. New Year’s Eve in Italy not only consists of good food, it’s mostly tradition and rite based on a series of customs with the goal to ensure abundance, wellness, and happiness for the entire year.

Here is a collection of the most famous and particular Italian traditions concerning New Year’s Eve. Please enjoy the following (and good luck too!)

Lentils and “cotechino”: Eating lentils at midnight on New Year’s Eve brings you fortune undoubtedly. It’s a tradition whose origins are disputed based on who tells the story. According to some people, these legumes are synonymous and symbols of long life; for others instead, lentils remind them of old golden coins; in fact it’s typical to give a money holder full of lentils with the wish that either they soon turn to coins of precious metal or to eat them with a good “cotechino”.

Bursts and fireworks: it seems evil spirits have some reluctance to loud noises. For this reason, during New Year’s Eve, it’s typical to shoot fireworks but mostly firecrackers that have the intention to scare devils and little demons and to keep away evil eyes.

Shards launching: one of the oldest and interesting beliefs is to throw against the floor some shards (dishes, glasses, trays) at midnight as a ritual to eliminate the bad physical and moral accumulated during the year.

Strenne: since the ancient Romans had the tradition of the “strenne” that used to be called streniarum commercium. During the night of New Year’s Eve, groups of young people go to the streets to sing Strenna’s song with the wish of New Year and gift requests. Receiving many presents will accumulate the abundance for the rest of the year.

Kiss under the mistletoe:  mistletoe is considered to be the Gods’ plant. According to the Druids, the mistletoe was the demonstration of the Gods on Earth because, with its characteristic, it could be both curative and a mortal poison. The Anglo-Saxons too used to associate the plant to the Goddess Freya, Odin’s spouse, patron of lovers. The kiss under the mistletoe at the stroke of midnight is an old tradition, which advocates love and fertility.

Red Underwear: it’s not that clear where this belief comes from but, only to play around with history, we can say that starting from the ancient Romans, they used to wear red clothes (underwear too) for New Year’s Eve as a superstition to keep away the fear of blood and war. In Imperial China, during New Year’s Eve, long red paper banners were hung on the walls of the house for good wishes for weddings and fertility. Nowadays, to continue tradition, the underwear is given as a gift and then it is thrown away the day after.

Eating grapes: eating grapes it’s a tradition that, even if it’s so old, came up again in the last few years thanks to the Spanish New Year’s Eve that requests to do a countdown while awaiting the New Year. Swallowing a grape every second for 12 times symbolizing the 12 months of the year. Once again, the tradition insists that a finger is placed in a glass of Italian “Spumante”, and to pass it behind our ear or one of the people we’d like to wish good luck for the New Year.

Windows and doors open: a typical Russian tradition, but pretty common in our folklore too, is to open two windows and the door of the house at midnight. Opening the windows create a draft that keeps away the evil spirits, while the open door let in the good ones.

There are many other New Year’s Eve traditions and this list is only a start. On January 1st, be careful with the first person you will meet on the street: if he/she is an old person or a humpbacked it means luck and long life while if he/she is a child or a priest it will be a bad luck for the year that has just begun.

Just don’t forget to start the year with a big smile!

Happy Holidays

Gerardo Soglia