Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

Saying farewell to the old year

In Italy, people look for any excuse to enjoy a celebration. So it should come as no surprise that when a big one like New Year’s Eve comes along, it’s wholeheartedly embraced. Just like most special occasions, La Festa di San Silvestro (New year’s Eve) has a feast at its heart, with foods including lentils, cotechino (large spiced sausage) and zampone (stuffed pig’s trotter) the stars of the show, due to their symbolism of good fortune. Good luck is also encouraged by the colour red. From the wearing of red underwear to dressing the bed in red linen, Italians do all they can to make the new year a lucky one, right from the start. After dinner, guests often take part in a game of tombola, with every region having its own way of calling out the numbers, based on local saints or legends, just like bingo.

In southern Italy they have a very dramatic way of saying farewell to the old year. Towards midnight they throw old things out of the window to symbolize their readiness to embrace the new. From the clatter of pots and pans hitting the cobblestones and the sounds of smashing plates, to the delighted squeals of children, it’s a noisy affair (and potentially a hazardous one if you happen to be standing under the wrong window).