Have you ever wondered what the origins of the Italian New Year’s traditions are?
After Christmas is over, everyone in Italy waits for the New Year to draw up their list of resolutions and goals for the year to come: this is the spirit we bring with us as we enter each new year and the next 365 days. After all, the old saying tells us, “anno nuovo vita nuova” (new year, new life), or, in other words, shake off the past and face the new year charged up and full of energy.
In 46 BC, Julius Caesar introduced the Julian Calendar, proclaiming the beginning of the year to be January 1st. Every first of the year the Romans would invite friends and relatives and exchange the so-called strenne, the “strenarium commercium”: pots full of dried fruit, dates, and raisins garnished with bay leaves. Hence the use of giving strenne (gifts) that represent best wishes for a year of plenty.
How do people celebrate New Year’s Eve in Italy?
First of all, because the Italians are a people who love to celebrate the New Year, they do it twice: on the evening of the 31st, they all gather for the Cenone (the big dinner) while they wait for midnight and then continue the party until the first light of dawn. On New Year’s day, in some regions, mothers are in the kitchen bright and early to prepare the best Italian New Year’s recipes to delight the palates of their guests: soups and rich broths are not lacking on any table!
New Year’s foods in Italy
The foods that are never lacking in any self-respecting Italian New Year’s Eve menu (because they are traditionally believed to bring wealth) are lentils, which are accompanied by the traditional Cotechino (a kind of pork sausage), and pomegranates. The lentils’ shape is similar to that of tiny coins, and eating them has become a good omen for a richer year. Another tradition, imported from Spain, is that of serving bunches of grapes at the table, to bring indicate abundance, and, if lovers exchange 12 grapes at midnight, they will stay in love for the whole year.
Botti, or Fireworks, at the stroke of midnight, fill the skies of all Italy. Amateurs and expert firework technicians are called upon to create magnificent displays of lights and colors for the joy of the spectators. Actually, the botti were traditionally not only be used to celebrate the arrival of the new year but also to scare away the evil spirits.
Giving red underwear as gifts to both women and men is a strong talisman for fertility and love, but be careful, it only works if you throw it all out the next day! To give love a helping hand, let’s not forget to mention the importance of the kiss during the twelve strokes of midnight under the mistletoe with your beloved.
Out with the old
Especially in southern Italy, it is common practice to toss dishes and old broken household items out the windows. It symbolizes getting rid of any negative energy that has accumulated during the last year and making space for positive thoughts!
Be careful who you talk to
The first meeting of the new year is very important. It is believed that meeting an elderly person or a man with a hump will bring good luck. In the first case because the elderly man foretells a long life, while the hump is well known to be a good luck charm. On the other hand, if the first person we meet at the beginning of the new year is a priest or a child, it isn’t the rosiest of omens.
Obviously, superstition is always present in Italian culture, as is the joy of being together and having fun!
If you have chosen to travel to Italy with Dragonfly Tours for your 2019 New Year’s celebrations, there are numerous ways to spend the most magical night of the year. Whether you prefer a romantic New Year’s Eve, a New Year’s Eve in the mountains, or partying with the crowds in the streets (but staying in a luxury hotel), all along the boot from north to south, you’ll be spoiled for choice.
New Year’s Eve in Rome, Naples, Milan, and in almost every large city, is a party made up of music and fun. The concerts in the piazzas accompany the evening until midnight toast. This year the big concert that will be broadcast on live TV will be in Bari. If you want to attend a free event where the greatest Italian and international artists take turns on stage then you just need to go to Puglia.
If, on the other hand, New Year’s Eve for you is mountains and skiing, from the Val d’Aosta to Trentino Alto-Adige, the Italian peaks are an experience that is second to none.
What kind of tourist are you? Discover all the trips organized and personalized for you by Dragonfly. Let yourself be charmed by our proposals, and kick off 2019 with an amazing vacation in Italy!