New Year's Eve in Italy is a cause for much celebration. Beautiful firework displays light up skies across the country and families and friends come together to celebrate the year gone by and welcome in the year ahead. 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 and dates back hundreds of years.
These unassuming pulses are a symbol of luck in Italia, thought to be harbingers of prosperity and wealth due to their resemblance to gold coins. Whilst it may seem a little superstitious, many Italians still eat lentils on New Year’s Eve in the hope that they will bring the consumer a year of good fortune.
Sausages are another staple component of the cena di Capodanno (New Year’s feast), but not just any old variety. Traditionally, many Italian’s favour zampone or cotechino which are spice-enriched meaty delicacies from the Emilia-Romagna region and are steeped in centuries of culinary history. These are often served alongside some sort of slow-cooked lentil ragù, the recipe for which may be a treasured family secret for many, passed down from generation to generation.
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 back 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 the colour became associated with Venus, the Roman goddess responsible for matters of the heart.
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 314 until his death on the 31st December 335.
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