Italy is a land of traditions and fun-to-embrace superstitions. As in many cultures, some of these relate to the beginning of a new year and finding good luck, love, and fortune in the coming months - and who doesn't want all that?
One tradition, the wearing of new red underwear, is said to bring romance and even fertility in the coming year. Store windows display pretty red underthings that are supposed to be given as gifts and worn just on New Year’s Eve (I’m not sure if this is an old superstition or just a good marketing tool). In a pinch, a red article of clothing seems a reasonable compromise.
In the spirit of “out with the old to make room for the new,” getting rid of old things by tossing them out the window is an old tradition that I have never encountered, though I’ve heard it still happens in small towns in southern Italy If visiting there on New Year’s Eve, be prepared to duck! Maybe we should just toss out old problems and outdated ways of doing things instead?
It is also said that the first person you see in the new year will determine the type of year it will be. Good luck follows if you meet an elderly person (if of the opposite gender - or a hunchback - that’s even better), but worry if you first encounter a child or a priest.
Of course some of the new year traditions involve food. Eating 12 grapes is good luck, as is eating pomegranate. Perhaps the best luck (at least financially) comes from eating lentils (lenticchie), which are coin shaped. Increase the luck factor by including rounds of sausage in the dish. Not one to ignore superstition (except maybe for the new red underwear), I was sure to have a pot of lentil soup over the holiday. Mine was full of carrots and celery and included sausage, though I skipped the traditional round (another coin shape) cotechino sausage, which was just too big for my small pot of lentils. I used crumbled small sausages instead (hopefully that does not mean my fortunes will crumble!). This made a flavorful soup and, if the superstition holds, will ensure that I have all the coins I need to stay in Italy throughout 2019. Fingers crossed! -post by JMB