Whether tone-on-tone or combined with gold and silver, it is always the star of the table and the look, if only for an accessory; wearing red brings good luck, at least that’s what they say. It is just one among many New Year’s traditions in Italy.
Here’s everything you need to know to welcome the New Year in perfect Italian style amid rituals, superstitions, and table delicacies from north and south.
The origin of the tradition of red on New Year’s Eve
The tradition of wearing a red dress on New Year’s Eve has ancient origins. In fact, it has its roots as far back as 31 B.C., during the time of Emperor Octavian Augustus when, on Roman New Year’s Eve both men and women used to wear red, a symbol of prosperity.
Later, the tradition became closely linked to underwear.
In the Middle Ages, for example, the groin area was covered with red cloth to guard against bad luck.
And it is underwear of this color that holds sway during the holidays, a tradition that everyone interprets in their own way.
For some it should be worn backwards and put back on the right way after midnight, a gesture that would enhance the accumulation of positive influences.
For others, however, the undergarment with which the New Year was welcomed should be thrown away.
The meaning is clear: away with the old forward with the new, literally.
When in doubt, to avert the start of an unlucky year, it is better to respect the tradition.
New Year’s lucky rites
Throwing away old things, or at least some of them, even if only symbolically, is another Italian New Year’s tradition.
A superstition, symbolizing the abandonment of the past.
In ancient times, this ritual was put into practice by throwing old things out the window.
It is a custom felt especially in the South, but today it is much less practiced than it used to be: don’t do it, it can be dangerous, unless you live alone in an isolated area.
Firecrackers and fireworks have the same meaning, although now banned in many Italian cities: at the heart of New Year’s rituals is always the desire to welcome the new, focus positive vibrations on oneself and chase away negativity.
Even making a lot of noise.
Cotechino and lentils, the combo of luck
In a country that has gastronomy as an undisputed strong point, traditions at the table certainly cannot be missed.
On the evening of December 31, cotechino and zampone are two great must-have classics.
Cotechino is a typical dish from northern Italy – the one from Modena has the PGI designation – but today it is eaten all over the country, especially around the holidays.
The tradition of eating it on New Year’s Eve refers to its nature: it is a fatty cured meat, obtained from the pig, according to Italian tradition a symbol of abundance, fertility and spiritual strength, and therefore good luck.
A second course always accompanied by lentils, also unfailing.
Again the reason is superstitious: they bring good luck, so much so that in some families there is the custom of serving them at the end of the meal, at the stroke of midnight, for others they are eaten as a side dish.
But why are these legumes good luck?
The custom is owed, once again, to the Romans who, on New Year’s Eve, gave a scarsella, or leather bag, containing them as a gift, with the wish that they would turn into coins in the months to come.
Pomegranate, between sacred and profane
It is not only by eating lentils that one would become rich. The good-luck rites of the Italian New Year at the table are linked to everything that can be counted.
In addition to lentils, there is the custom of eating pomegranate, probably because of the abundance of the kernels or the red color.
In ancient times, moreover, the pomegranate was a plant that symbolized wealth and fertility.
Credit the Bible, where the fruit is referred to as one that the exiles from Egypt would find in the promised land.
Take note: it is also featured in so many sacred-themed paintings because it symbolizes God’s gifts. If you are invited and want to give a special gift, bring a pomegranate plant-there is no more beautiful wish.
The 12 Grapes of New Year’s Eve in Naples
More related to local traditions is the custom of eating grapes in the last minutes before midnight, twelve, like the months of the year.
This is an ancient Spanish ritual that had no trouble taking root in Naples and other southern areas during the years of Spanish rule in Italy.
Like the lentils and pomegranate, the grape is also a wish for wealth because it can be counted and, in this, refers directly to coins.
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