NEW YEAR’S EVE in ITALY: traditions, customs and rituals.
If one wanted to uphold all the Italian traditions, good luck rituals, and at a push all the various superstitious customs, New Year’s Eve AND Day would be a hell of a stressful time. There are all sorts of things an Italian should remember, from lentils, to money in pockets, from red knickers (yes you read this right!) to fireworks (and the two are not connected!), from grapes to midnight toasts, from kisses under the mistletoe to opening windows to let evil spirits out of the house. So yes, NYE in Italy can be a rather busy affair trying to remember all of the above.
But what are the meanings behind all these little customs and traditions?
LENTICCHIE (aka lentils): to eat lentils at midnight on the last day of the year is said to bring good luck. It is a tradition that seems to have different origins depending on whom you ask. There is the theory that you are supposed to eat lentils because legumes are naturally resilient and if stored well can last a very long time, hence are a symbol of long life. Others see it a symbol for old gold coins. It is in fact considered good luck to gift a waller/purse full of lentils as a wish that these will transform into coins.
FUOCHI D’ARTIFICIO (aka fireworks): apparently, evil spirits are scared of loud noises, didn’t you know? Apparently this is where the tradition of using fireworks on NYE comes from… it’s all to scare off any evil or bad luck spirits.
LANCIO DEI PIATTI (aka smashing plates!): It is a national tradition but the Neapolitans take it more seriously than others. Basically, tradition has it that at midnight you need to smash ceramic objects, plates, glasses and the likes on the floor.
This is a symbolic act by which one disposes of moral and physical illnesses have been accumulated throughout the course of the year that is coming to an end.
BACIO SOTTO IL VISCHIO (aka kiss under the mistletoe): Mistletoe has always been the plant of the gods. Some ancient people saw it as divine manifestation on earth due to both its curative powers and its lethal venum. Anglosaxons saw it as the plan representative of the Freya the goddess responsible for protecting lovers. Kissing under the mistletoe at midnight is there fore a good omen to inspire love and fertility.
BIANCHERIA ROSSA (aka red underwear): It is not very clear where this tradition comes from but this does not seem to be something that bothers anyone. Apparently the Romans used to wear red clothing, not necessarily underwear, at the turn of a year to diminish the fear of blood and war. In China, the emperors would have long strips of red paper hanging over the walls to encourage weddings and fertility. Italians have adopted the traditions though it is not really clear how and why… The things to keep in mind are two: 1) The red underwear has to be gifted not purchased. 2) Independent of how expensive it may have been, the gifted red underwear has to be thrown away on the 1st of January… or it is all a wasted exercise. The purpose of the exercise remains a mystery to us … but that is what we have found out!
FINESTRE E PORTE APERTE (aka open windows and doors): this is a typical Russian tradition but one that Italians have adopted. It is popular practice to leave two windows and the house front door open at Midnight – this is supposed to create a current through the house that wipes away any evil spirits while allowing good ones to enter.Riti e tradizioni del 1 Gennaio.
Traditions don’t end at midnight on NYE. On the first day of the year, you are supposed to pay attention to the first person that you meet in the street. If it an older person, you can hope for a very good year, full of positive things. On the other hand, if you meet a baby, the likelihood is that your year will be filled with hardship (don’t shoot the messanger!!!). And if you meet a woman…. apparently it depends on the town or village you come from (handy!).
So…. here is an insights in some of the Italians traditions and rituals that surround the end of a year and the beginning of a new one. However superstitious you may or may not be, one thing is for sure, we have had a fantastic 2014 and are looking forward to what 2015 is going to bring. Hope you have a great time tonight.
The Antico Family