Monday, February 8, 2010

An Italian New Year's Eve







To celebrate the night between December 31 and January 1st, called "Capodanno" it is an Italian tradition to shoot fireworks, as in many other cities around the world. In Venice they will celebrate like last year with the "Love 2010 event". On St. Mark's square from the central tower a spectacular program of music and lights will be performed, with projections that will color the historic buildings surrounding the square. At midnight the water of the lagoon at San Marco will host a fireworks display that will light up New Year's Eve. And for all, a toast with Bellini.
I wish I was there!
But the Italian tradition includes also a number of superstitious rituals for the first hours of the new year, all aiming at ensuring abundance, prosperity and happiness for the entire year. To start at home... kissing under the mistletoe is a sign of good omen. On New Year's Eve, also hanging some mistletoe on the front door it is said it will take away the evil spirits from your home, this tradition comes directly from ancient beliefs handed down by the Druids. In many towns and villages a long procession of people, skiing or walking, with torches in their hands will wind up the hills or the mountains, where a huge effigy of wood and rags will be burned and with it, symbolically, the fire will erase all the troubles and sorrows of the old year.



Also important is what you eat that night and particular care is given to the decoration of the table.
Holiday Placesetting



Tradition has it that, both at home, at friends or in restaurants, dinner on the last day of the year should last several hours, to celebrate the stroke of midnight still at the table! Dinner could become a party lasting until well past Midnight, with dance and music, more champagne, streamers and coriandoli (which in English are called "confetti" and I have no idea why...since confetti in Italian are those almonds coated in sugar given away at weddings!) The rich, lengthy dinner, called "il Cenone di Capodanno" (big dinner) always requires to eat plenty of lentils which are a pledge of wealth for the new year and since every lentil represents a coin, more we will eat, more money we will have! Here is one of the most popular dish in the North for that evening: the Zampone (boned pigs' forelegs stuffed with a mixture of ground pork, pork rinds, and spices) with lentils, mashed potatoes, spinach and mostarda, an Italian condiment made of candied fruit and a mustard flavored syrup.

A festive table in the south with its specialty of cannoli, cassata, marzipan.

In Val d'Aosta and the Marches, while the clock strikes midnight it brings good luck to eat 12 black grapes, while in Romagna is fine to eat grapes of any color. From North to South pomegranate is also said to bring good luck, with its lively, festive color and the numerous tiny parts of the fruit, which again means wealth.
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In Abruzzo, dinner often must have 7 soups of 7 different vegetables, also bearers of wealth. And on and on... for each region of Italy a different tradition...! But indispensable everywhere is a "cin cin" a toast with champagne or sparkling wine, uncorked exactly at midnight and always making the big bang: this noise, like the one of firecrackers, in ancient times was said helping to ward off the evil eye. As you can see many traditions for Capodanno have pagan roots, since it is not considered a religious holiday.
One of the oldest traditions is to break on the floor some pieces from the table, like plates, cups, trays, precisely at midnight, to drive away all the evil that has accumulated during the year and in general disposing of old or unused items signify changes. The practice to throw them from the window was widespread in Italy in various ways, and is still living partially in large cities like Rome and Naples, often with damage to parked cars and sometimes even to the unwary passers-by but fortunately it has become a custom almost abandoned!
And now from my home to yours a toast to the New Year: may it bring


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