Italian habits and rituals for the New Year
Celebrating New Year in Italy
habits for new year

 

The year comes to an end with the 31st December: New Year's Eve. Each country has its own habits and customs when it comes to how to end an year and begin another.

Italy, too, has its own traditions and rituals, which are usually followed strictly by many, as we are, it is well known everywhere in the world, a nation of scaramantici, that is to say, superstitious people. Here is a list of the most traditional things we do in Italy during the night of the 31st December:

 

Eating lentils at midnight

 

Eating lentils is a typical New Year's Eve habit (Enrica Corvino/flickr)

 

That of eating lentils at midnight on New Year's Eve is a true Italian tradition, thought to bring fortune and happiness. However, why are lentils eaten and not other types of food? The reason is tied to the symbolic meaning lentils hold: as nourishing, wholesome food, they represent well being and wealth, which they are believed to bring to all those eating them on the first night of the New Year.

 

I botti di Capodanno: New Year's Fireworks

 

I Botti di Capodanno (comunedipignataro/flickr)

 

I botti, fireworks, were considered  a means to chase away the evil and spiteful spirits raging on earth during the passage from the old to the new year. Today though, fireworks are simply a way to celebrate the coming of the New Year, albeit a dangerous way indeed, so much so many Italian cities have forbidden their use.

 

Throwing cocciold kitchenware, out of the window at midnight

 

Il lancio dei cocci is popular especially in the South of the country (Crazy House Capers/flickr)

 

Il lancio dei cocci, means throwing out of a window old plates, cups and other kitchenware. This, too, was thought to keep evil spirits at bay. This particular practice is popular especially in the South, primarily in Rome and Naples.

 

Eating Raisins

Raisins are believed to bring a lot of money, hence the tradition to eat some on New Year's Eve, as a good omen for the new year.

 

Wearing Red underwear

 

Don't forget red underwear on New Year's Eve! (Pilar Flores/flickr)

 

Red underwear is a must for men and women alike on New Year's Eve, as it is supposed to bring good luck. The association between the color and good omens is tied back to the ancient Roman habit to wear red during battle to exorcise the fear of the enemy.

 

Kissing your lover under the mistletoe

 

Arthur Sarnoff's view of a kiss under the mistletoe (Tom Simpson/flickr)

 

This is a very ancient, yet popular tradition. Legends tell that kissing the one you love under the mistletoe will bring loads of luck to your love story.

 

Believing in prodigi, prodigies

In some regions, New Year's Eve is considered a night of prodigies, because unusual things are said to take place. For example, a legend from Abruzzo says the waters of a particular river stop flowing at midnight on New Year's Eve and turn into gold.

 

The person you will meet first will bring you good or bad luck

Some people believe that the person you will meet first on New Year's Day will influence the events of the coming 12 months. It is said that meeting a hunchback or an elderly person will bring you good luck, while it is the opposite if you meet a priest or a child.

 

Eating pomegranate and grapes 

 

Sweet pomegranate is a typical treat for New Year's Eve (Valentina Scognamiglio/flickr)

 

Pomegranate and grapes are considered essential fruits for the cenone di Capodanno, New Year's Eve's dinner, as they are believed to bring good luck. Pomegranates also symbolize marital fidelity.

 

Throwing old things away

 

Get rid of the old to make space for the new on New Year's Eve (Christian/flickr)

 

Last but not least, when the new year comes, we Italians throw old things away, to symbolically make space for all that is new and still has to come.

 

These are some of the habits conventionally associated with the end of the year: some are slowly, but unfortunately disappearing, whereas others are kept alive in virtue of the Italian motto Non  è vero ma ci credo, it is not true but I believe it!

 

The Author

Translator and freelance writer.

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