New Year's Eve in Italy is a cause for much celebration. From north to south of il bel paese, families and friends gather to welcome in the New Year as beautiful firework displays illuminate the inky-black skies.
La Notte di San Silvestro
The Italian New Year is often known as il Notte di San Silvestro, the Night of Saint Sylvester. In Gregorian Christian tradition, this is a Saint’s Day which commemorates the death of Pope Sylvester I, the Bishop of Rome from the year 314 until his death on the 31st of December 335.
Lentils of Luck
Whilst many regions have their own traditions, the ritual of eating lentils as part of the cenone (dinner) is one that takes place across the nation at New Year’s. This tradition dates back hundreds of years when Romans would give a pouch of dry lentils to friends and family as a gift of good luck. Now considered a long-standing symbol of luck in Italy and recognised for their rounded, coin-like appearance, lentils are thought to be harbingers of wealth and prosperity.
Sausages are another staple component of the cena di Capodanno (New Year’s feast), but not just any old variety. Traditionally, many Italians’ favour zampone or cotechino which are spice-enriched meaty delicacies from the Emilia-Romagna region and are steeped in centuries of gastronomic history. These are often served alongside some sort of slow-cooked lentil ragù and polenta, the recipe for which may be a treasured family secret for many, passed down from generation to generation.
Grapes are also a symbol of luck seen served on this special night, although I’m sure many consume their lucky grapes in a more deliciously liquid format! After all, you cannot welcome the New Year without a full glass of Prosecco and a kiss from a loved one!
Wear Red to Bed!
Other New Year’s rituals that have survived the test of time in parts of Italy include wearing red underwear as the clock strikes 12. This quirky tradition allegedly dates to the Middle Ages when all year round, red was frowned upon as a colour that symbolised evil, but on New Year’s Eve it was said to be a portent of love and thus, the colour became associated with Venus, the Roman goddess responsible for matters of the heart. Many Italians still participate in this tradition and we’re rather inclined to give it a go this year!
Should you need any more festive content, check out our Christmas recipe hub here!
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