Every culture celebrates the coming of the new year differently. In Italian culture, there are certain foods that are eaten and rituals that are performed every year on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Start the New Year the Italian way with these five Italian New Year’s traditions.
What to Eat on Italian New Year
Just as it is with other Italian holidays such as Christmas and Easter, this holiday is typically celebrated with the eating of certain dishes that are thought to invoke prosperity and good fortune. Read up on the traditional Italian Christmas dinner and the traditional Italian Easter feast.
Cotechino Pork Sausage
The star meat dish of an Italian New Year celebration is cotechino, a type of Italian sausage. It is believed that this is because cotechino slices look like round medallions and coins, a good omen for wealth. It is a rich, fatty meat that signifies abundance. If you want to go the even more traditional route, put pigs’ feet on your holiday table instead of cotechino.
On New Year’s Eve, cotechino is typically served with lentils—another food that is thought to resemble coins and money. Cotechino with lentils is often cooked with onions, tomatoes and garlic. The combination of pork and beans (or legumes) is supposed to double your luck!
Dessert at an Italian New Year celebration is not big and boastful. Rather than an over-the-top dessert to finish a holiday meal, Italians enjoy grapes and other dried fruit, like raisins or figs. Grapes are especially important because they represent wisdom and frugality. It is important in Italian culture to not only usher in great fortune and prosperity, but also to avoid needless spending and poor business transactions.
Rituals for Good Fortune
Eating isn’t the only thing Italians do on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Just as certain foods are thought to bring prosperity, so too are other types of traditions. Italian culture takes the time-honored adage, “out with the old and in with the new,” seriously.
Spending New Year in Italy? Here’s a travel tip: Watch out! In Italy, this holiday can get pretty dicey—literally. It is tradition for people to break old plates and pottery during this holiday. The idea is to get rid of any lingering bad luck from the previous year and start fresh. Similarly, many people also dispose of old clothes and other possessions on this day. Getting hit by flying objects is a real danger!
Wearing Red Underwear
The color red is universal for good fortune and prosperity. One of the most well-known examples of this is the Chinese New Year, which is literally dressed head to toe in red. In China, red envelopes with money inside are given to family and children. In Italy, however, gift-giving is a little more risque. It is traditional to give red undergarments as a present to be worn on New Year’s Eve to attract good fortune. After New Year’s Day, the red undergarments must be disposed of just like everything else!
Felice Anno Nuovo!