This year, I thought it would be fun to honor my SO’s Italian heritage for New Year’s Eve. We’ve been getting together to celebrate for several years with friends. It’s usually around 10 of us at the celebration and then includes my Bestie’s two kids. What I thought would be fun is to not just host a great Italian meal but take on some of the Italian traditions to go with it.
I did some research and found from 10+ websites that the Italian traditions for New Year’s are pretty consistent across the websites. Some of the traditions are based on ancient Roman superstitions. Here are some of the traditions that I found across sites:
- Eating 12 grapes at every chime on Midnight: to bring good luck: It is said that if you are able to keep grapes from the fall harvest, then you are frugal and a good business person. The Italians have the following saying, “Chi mangia l’uva per Capodanno, maneggia i quattrini tutto l’anno.” This translates to, “Whoever eats grapes on New Year, will handle money all year.”
- Both men and women wear red undergarments: The Color red has long signified passion and in this Italian tradition it is thought that wearing red underwear will help with fertility and fortune in the upcoming year.
- Italians like to bring a noisy beginning to the New Year: At the stroke of midnight, Italians will throw out something used out of the window. I’ve seen this stated in two different ways. One says to throw out a pot or pan and the other says to throw out something personal. Another tradition is to watch or set off fireworks. Ancient Romans thought that the noise and the fire would scare off evil spirits. Either way this is a noisy we get into the new year.
- Leave the house with money in your pocket: It is thought that if you leave the house on for the first time after midnight on New Year’s Eve with some money in your pocket, you will always have something to spend every day of the year.
- Omens come in form of the first person you see: The first person you see after leaving the house after midnight is what kind of luck you will have for the following year. If you see a baby, priest, or a doctor, it is said that you will have bad luck. If you have seen an older person then you will have good luck.
- Eating certains foods:.Pork: Pigs are considered a symbol of prosperity in some cultures because they root for food in a forward direction and their meat is rich in fat. According to La Cucina Italiana:“Cotechino, a large spiced sausage, which is simmered over very low heat and then served sliced into rounds. The rich fat of the pork used in the filling predicts riches in the coming year. A specialty of Emilia-Romagna, Cotechino di Modena has earned European Union IGP special geographically protected status.”
“Zampone, a unique sausage created by stuffing a mixture of seasoned ground pork into a boned pig’s foot instead of a more typical sausage casing is another specialty of Modena in Emilia-Romagna. As with cotechino it is cooked for hours over low flame and served sliced into rounds. Both these delicacies were created centuries ago when it was important that no parts of the pig be wasted.”
Lentils: Lentils are considered a symbol of coins because they look like a penny. So if you eat lentils with your zampone or cotechino, you will be lucky in money for the next year
Fish: The Cenone di Capodanno (New Year’s eve dinner) is a tradition in Southern Italy. Each course is served with a variety of seafood.
Risotto: is a symbol of abundance since the rice swells with cooking. A first course of risotto brings prosperity for the upcoming year.
Desserts: On New Year’s Eve, it is an ancient Roman tradition to eat almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, walnuts, dates, raisins, and dried figs to bring fertility and wellness to the new year. Some Italians eat pomegranates because the endless number of seeds bring fertility and wealth.
Some traditional New Year’s Eve desserts from around Italy are panettone, pandora, susamielli, mostaccioli, and struffoli. Struffoli are fried dough balls dipped in honey. The marble sized balls are them piled into mound and sprinkled with colored sugar and candied fruit. This dessert is seen as a sign of abundance and money.
Based on some of these traditions, I concocted a menu for our feast. Susan is bringing dessert from her favorite Italian bakery, which will be served with Limoncello and cafelatte. Erika is bringing midnight sparkling wine from a recent trip to Napa.
Tomato and basil bruschetta
Crown Pork Roast
Lentils with a side of Italian sausage
Cacio e Pepe
I’ll be sending out an invitation with some specifics. I am asking them to wear red underwear and of course that will be on the honor system. They are required to bring something personal or a pot and pan to throw out the window at midnight gang. I will be asking them to wear red underwear and of course that will be on the honor system. They are required to bring a used personal item or a used pot and pan to throw out the window at midnight so that we can make a noisy start to the new year (as if we needed any help). One of the highlights from last year were the games we played while waiting to turn on the ball drop. We will be playing games from You Don’t Know Jack. Camille downloaded them from the Microsoft store onto the TV. They were a myriad of games and we all loved them. The later the evening wore on, the funnier the responses.
That is how we are bringing a little bit of Italian traditions home. Enjoy!