The New Year, no matter when or where you celebrate it, is a signal of hope and rejuvenation. It is a time to reflect and think through both the good and bad that touched our lives throughout the past year. As we step into the start of our next cycle, it is also a time that we look forward, often beckoning a desire for change and betterment, however that may look. In Italy, this inevitable progression of time is celebrated with various customary practices and traditional foods to both bid farewell to the past, and welcome the forthcoming future.
One of the most commonly practiced traditions is the consumption of lentils on New Year's Eve. With their close resemblance to ancient coins, the consumption of lentils is thought to summon good fortune for the year to come. The more little coins that you eat, the more money that will come your way. Most Italians serve lentils with Cotechino (pork sausage) as the clock strikes midnight.
As the bells toll the twelve strikes of midnight, many Italians will eat a single grape or raisin with each ring of the bell. With twelve months of the year to come, each grape is consumed to ward off bad luck and beckon good fortune for each month of the year.
Out with the Old, In with the New
If you’re walking through the streets of Rome on New Years Eve, be sure to watch where you’re going or you might be struck on the head with an old discarded pot. Since Ancient Roman times, households have thrown out old pots, pans, garments and even furniture from their windows to let go of the past and create space for what is to come. They also believed that the clinging sounds of pots and pans on the cobblestone streets warded off evil spirits.
Thought to signal both fertility and good fortune, many Italians adorn red undergarments to ring in the New Year. The catch is, they have to be new, and you cannot purchase them for yourself.
In beautiful Sicily, many families eat lasagna to celebrate the coming year. Packed with layers of delicious ragù, cheese, and pasta, making lasagna takes time and dedication, so it is an extra special meal to enjoy on this auspicious occasion. On the other hand, do not by any means expect a macaroni and cheese dinner in Sicily during a new years celebration. Seen as common and simple, serving macaroni and cheese bodes ill for the year to come.
Whether you fall into the superstitious camp, or prefer to spend your time reminiscing over the year that has passed and contemplating the year to come, New Year's rituals bring us a sense of comfort and assurance. Let us know what your favorite ways to celebrate are in the comments below.