Italian New Year’s Eve traditions. How does Italy celebrate New Year’s Eve?


Last Updated on December 1, 2023 by Laura Teso

How does Italy celebrate New Year’s Eve? In this post I’m going to make a list of New Year’s Eve Italian traditions.

How to say New Year’s Eve in Italian?

But first things first: New Year’s Eve is la vigilia (eve) di Capodanno [kah-poh-DAHN-noh], being Capodanno the First Day of the Year. But by extension we call both Capodanno. By the way: Happy New Year is Buon Anno [bwohn AHN-noh]!

New Year’s Eve Italian traditions – Food

That said, I know that the first thing you’re interested in regarding New Year’s Eve Italian traditions is food. What do we usually eat during the so called Cenone (big dinner)? Lots of things:

Antipasti must be tasty and colorful. Like canapés. Very popular is the so called panettone gastronomico. It is a savoury panettone, sliced, stuffed with many different fillings and then recomposed. It surely makes a good impression on guests.

As first course tortellini, agnolotti or lasagne. But also risotto or linguine. The sauce can be ragù (meat sauce), vegetables or fish sauce. Depending on the tastes of the tablemates.

As second course boiled or roasted meat, poultries or fish. In short, whatever pleases you. As long as it is rich and scrumptious. Not for an everyday meal. Among the most prepared dishes are zampone and cotechino (both pork based), symbol of abundance, accompanied with puré (mashed potatoes) and lenticchie (lentils). I love everything of the pork, but these two. No wonder I’m always penniless!

As for the dessert, it usually is one of the Christmas famous cakes, pandoro and panettone (see on my Chrismas in Italy post). Or both. 😉 Accompanied by prosecco, of course. And mascarpone cream (like the one for tiramisù).

In conclusion, a quite heavy dinner.

New Year’s Eve Italian traditions

New Year’s Eve Italian traditions. “Very superstitious”

Lenticchie cannot be missed. This is part of a long time tradition/superstition, comparing lentils to money. They say that the new year is going to be richer if you eat a lot of lentils on the New Year’s Eve or better on New Year’s Day. My best friend starts at midnight. 😉

If you do it on Capodanno…

There is also another superstition/mockery, claiming that what you do on New Year’s Eve or Day, you are going to do it for the whole year. It mainly refers to sex. If you do it at Capodanno, you’ll be doing it for the rest of the year. But it spread to everything. So, for example, if you’re sick, friends could mock you, saying “ammalato a capodanno, ammalato tutto l’anno” (sick on new year’s eve, sick all year long). Now I’m worried for the health part, since I’m voiceless at present and New Year’s Eve is approaching. 😀 Any way, I think it’s just a saying that had success because of the rhyme “capodanno” “tutto l’anno”.

Mutande rosse

A custom to get rid of bad luck would be wearing red panties on New Year’s Eve. But I stopped a lot of years ago, having established with no wiggle room that it doesn’t work for me. At all. But I’m sure that there are still people who wears red pants. To work properly, they should be a present from another person. And they should be thrown away the day after.

It seems that this tradition dates back to the time of the ancient Romans. During New Year’s Eve they wore something red to represent power, health and fertility.

Getting rid of old things

This is mostly a southern Italy tradition. People use to throw old things out of the window or balcony. So it can be quite dangerous.

No greetings in advance!

In Italy many people are very superstitious. We do not appreciate to hear “Happy New Year” in advance. Better to wait until 00.01 of January 1st. Or you could see people doing strange gestures like devil horns or worse (men touching their balls… yes they do it).

Brindisi with kiss

Around the countdown, women should be standing next to a man and vice versa. It brings good luck to have a person of the opposite sex to kiss (not necessarily on the mouth) and to wish Happy New Year to at the stroke of midnight.

New Year’s Eve Italian traditions

Feste di Piazza and Fireworks

Open-air parties in the most beautiful squares of Italy is a tradition in all the main cities and big villages. Concerts followed by fireworks (the so called botti) are preferred by many people, mostly groups of young friends. There are feste in Milan, Florence, Venice, Rome and many many other cities. Including my Padova.

As for me, if I can’t spend a couple of days in the mountains or travelling somewhere, I honestly prefer a quiet home dinner with my husband or close friends. I’m pretty satisfied with a good conversation and a board game. Away from the confusion of crowded parties, piazzas or something.

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