Italian New Year's Traditions

by Christopher Atwood


Each country in the world has its own way to celebrate the New Year. Italy is no exception, with Italian New Year’s traditions varying from region to region and town to town. Capodanno, as New Year’s Eve is called in Italian, is celebrated in unique ways in Italy’s different areas – auguring a “buon anno” (good year) and the banishing of last year’s sfortuna (bad luck). And, since we’re taking about Italy here, many Italian New Year’s traditions are —unsurprisingly— rooted in food.  

Venice Italy Fireworks

So, how do they celebrate New Year’s in Italy? While the residents of Naples literally throw out the old at the stroke of midnight, other Italians prefer fireworks or a feast with family. Below you’ll find our guide to the quirky New Year’s traditions in Italy:

WHAT DO ITALIANS EAT TO CELEBRATE THE NEW YEAR?

Coinciding with the Christian feast of St. Sylvester (San Silvestro), New Year’s Eve in Italy is all about food, friends and famiglia. Traditionally, Italians gather together with loved ones on New Year’s Eve for a filling feast—served family-style around a big table. What do Italians eat to celebrate New Year's?

Lenticchie e Cotechino

Popular Italian New Year’s dishes include pork and lentils. Pork – usually in the form of cotechino (sausage) or zampone (pig trotter) – represents life’s fullness and richness to come. Lentils, similarly, are eaten because they look like miniature coins—portending a prosperous year ahead.

WHAT DO ITALIANS WEAR ON NEW YEAR’S?

Unlike in the US, where the new year doesn’t inspire a specific dress code, Italians associate New Years with rosso — the color red. Whether you’re a man or a woman, donning red is said to help ring in a lucky year ahead. More specifically, Italians like to put on a new pair of red underwear in honor of the approaching new year – they’re considered especially lucky if gifted to you by your sweetheart.  

THROW OUT THE OLD – LITERALLY

New Year’s Eve in Italy means “out with the old, in with the new.” This concept is taken quite literally in Naples and across Southern Italy – where locals fete the arrival of midnight by tossing old dishes (cocci) and furniture out the window and onto the street. Called “buttare le cose vecchie” (throwing out old things) in Italian, this transgressive tradition is thought to clear out your house in preparation for better things to come in the year ahead. So, if you’re wandering the streets of Naples this New Year’s Eve, be sure to duck inside at midnight to avoid falling plates and pans!

Naples Italy ceramics

HOW DO ITALIANS TOAST THE NEW YEAR?

At the stroke of midnight, Italians across the country will shout out “Buon anno” (pronounced bwon ahn-no) – a toast paired with bacini (kisses) on both cheeks and a glass of fizzy Prosecco or spumante. One common Italian New Year’s tradition is to dip your finger in a glass of bubbly and then to touch the ear of someone to whom you’d like to wish a happy new year.  

NEW YEARS IN FLORENCE. . . IS IN MARCH

Up until 1750, the city of Florence (and the areas ruled by the city) didn’t celebrate the new year on January 1st.  Instead, Florentines honored an earlier Christian calendar—when the Feast of the Annunciation marked the start of the year. To this day, you can actually celebrate New Year’s Day in Florence, Italy, twice – along with everyone else on January 1st and, like a true Tuscan, on March 25th.

Florence Italy fountain

Capodanno fiorentino (Florentine New Year) celebrations include a pilgrimage to the Basilica dell’Annunziata and a popular parade through the city—where participants don traditional costumes and wave historic flags. If you find yourself in Florence on December 31st, though, be sure to check out the aerial acrobatics in Piazza Signoria or fireworks at midnight – best viewed from Ponte Vecchio or along the banks of the Arno River.

ON NEW YEAR’S EVE. . . ITALIANS EAT GRAPES

When the clock hits midnight in Italy on New Year’s Eve, some Italians like to eat grapes.  Imported from Spain, this Italian New Year’s tradition calls for a grape to be eaten for each of the 12 hours struck on the clock. In some Italian regions, raisins are also consumed—as, according to popular legend, they’re signs of good luck.  

NEW YEAR’S EVE – PARTYING IN A PIAZZA

As with most Italian traditions, New Year’s Eve in Italy is a social ((not solitary)) affair – celebrated, that is, in lively group gatherings. After enjoying a traditional New Year’s Eve cenone (feast), many Italians head outdoors to their city’s historic streets and piazzas. Here, you’ll find firework displays, open-air concerts and folks reveling in the shared festivities. In Rome, for instance, fireworks light up the sky by the Colosseum.

Venice_New_Years1-1

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