New Year’s in Italy is filled with good luck rituals, enchanting light displays and – of course - tons of delicious food and wine! Learn more about Italian traditions for San Silvestro (December 31) -- some of which date back centuries.
Like many cultures across the globe, Italians appreciate a dazzling pyrotechnic display. On New Year’s Eve, the skies light up with colorful fireworks, locally known as “I botti.” Towns and cities throughout the country put on their very best light shows to be enjoyed by all. Plazas and city centers are packed with revelers who are celebrating La Festa di San Silvestro with total abandon. Besides sheer entertainment, the fireworks are also said to frighten off spiteful or malicious spirits that can lurk in the ethers between the old year and new.
Another popular Italian New Year tradition revolves around red undergarments that are worn to bring good luck. Men, women, and children of all ages don crimson underwear on December 31 to help ensure a happy and healthy coming year. In the days leading up to New Year’s Eve, you will see street market vendors selling all manner of red-hued skivvies and lingerie. Local tradition dictates that in order for the superstition to work, everyone must throw out their red intimates the next day.
Italians toast the start of a new year with a glass of bubbly. From Toscana to Veneto, the beverage of choice is always spumante, or Italian sparkling wine. When the clock strikes midnight, most festivalgoers are clinking glasses of Prosecco - a light sparkling wine that comes from northeastern Italy. It is also customary to finish the countdown to 12 o-clock midnight with a kiss.
Cotechino con le lenticchie is the most typical dish for Italian households on December 31. This meal centers around a rich spiced pork sausage, served in a natural casing on a bed of cooked lentils. This hearty dish is infused with sage, thyme and cloves and is thought to bring wealth and good luck for the coming year.
Holiday treats include dried fruits, nuts, and the classic panettone cakes, but the New Year’s Eve table will also feature plump, juicy grapes. In Italy, it is said that eating twelve grapes at midnight – one for each month of the year – will help bring luck and wealth. An old adage says: “Chi mangia l'uva per Capodanno conta i quattrini tutto l'anno,” which translates to “he who eats grapes for New Year counts money all year round.”
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