Ringing in the New Year, the Italian Way

Italians know how to celebrate the holidays, and New Years is no exception.

By: Felicia LaLomia, ISDA Contributor 

Italy is a wonderful place to explore anytime of the year, but when the Roman cathedrals or Trevi fountain serve as the backdrop to a New Year’s Eve fireworks show, there’s nothing quite like it. Yet, the significance of the celebration extends well beyond this spectacle. Il capodanno, or the New Year, consists of several Italian traditions that revolve around family, friends and food. 

La Festa di San Silvestro, Saint Sylvester’s feast day.

St. Sylvester was a pope in the fourth century and was buried on December 31st. So, New Year’s Eve is a big day in Italy meant to celebrate his legacy. Although not much is confirmed about his papacy, he certainly has a reputation that has outlived him. Rumors of his rule include a cure of leprosy, baptizing Roman Emperor Constantine and even slaying a dragon. And to celebrate this impressive pope, an impressive display of fireworks are shot off. 

The food

The traditional New Year’s Eve meal in Italy is one that consists of pork and lentils, and not just because they are a delicious combination. Pork represents how rich life can be, and the lentils, shaped like little coins, are meant to symbolize good fortune. Eating this dish on the last day of the year is supposed to bring you wealth and prosperity. The pork can come in many versions, including cotechino, a large spiced sausage, or a Campione, stuffed pig’s trotter. 


Post-dinner festivities 

After all that eating, typically done with friends and family, people hit the streets for the public celebrations. Many places will have large firework displays, as is common in many parts of the world, but people will also light off their own caches.

Rogo del Vecchione, or “Burning of the Old One” in Bologna

Every year in this Italian city, locals ring in the new year with fire. At midnight, an effigy, usually of an old man designed by a local artist, is brought into the main square of the town. It is then set on fire, representing the burning off of all of the previous year’s bad luck and making room for all of the possibilities of the new year. 

The red underwear tradition 

If your superstitious, like some Italians can be, you may want to start participating in this tradition. It is believed that wearing red underwear while celebrating the new year will bring you good luck. In fact, take a walk through the Italian markets leading up to the holiday and you’ll see plenty of red undergarments for sale. Other Italian New Year’s traditions include playing Tombola, a game similar to bingo, and throwing your old possessions out the window to prepare yourself for the upcoming year. 

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