Article first published as Lentils, Sausages & Red Underwear: Italian New Year Traditions on Technorati.
Christmas has come and gone already. The last remains of the panettone and croccante have been eaten on Boxing Day, and these few days between the celebrations of the birth of Jesus and the arrival of the New Year are a bit subdued. People lucky enough to be on holiday sleep in and go for walks, or take advantage of the sales in their favourite shops. The ones who had to go into work find that not much is going on. It is as if time is standing still.
On December 31st, this all changes. The preparations for New Year's Eve start and there is a feeling of excitement in the air again. Leaving the current year behind and looking forward to the new one always bring a fresh burst of optimism and happiness. If you are celebrating at home with family and friends, you will most probably be cooking “cotechino e lenticchie”. This is a traditional dish featuring fresh pork sausages and lentils. Both ingredients are important: eating pork and lentils means that the coming year will be a prosperous one for you. As you prepare this recipe for the big night, its fragrant aroma filling your kitchen, and when later on you enjoy the delicious taste of it, you cannot help but believe that this belief is indeed true.
The best way to buy cotechino is raw, as opposed to pre-cooked, as it will give even more flavour to the casserole. As for the lentils, the best one are said to come form Castelluccio di Norcia, a lovely village located in stunning Umbria. This dish is so popular that should you decide to go out you will find it on the menu in many restaurants, either in its usual form or revamped for the occasion.
Another interesting tradition is to wear read underwear for good luck. But beware: not any old or simply already worn red underwear will do. No, it has to be new, and to have been given as a gift to you. One may wonder how much of the shops turnover sales of red underwear account for at the end of the year!
In some regions, people will also eat pomegranate, another symbol of prosperity and abundance, or chuck old objects out of the window (the latter mostly in the south).
As for the following traditions, they are shared with many other countries: to kiss under the mistletoe, fireworks at midnight and to welcome the New Year with a glass sparkling wine. The most popular choices are a bottle coming from the Franciacorta wine region (Lombardy), Prosecco (Veneto) or simply the local "spumante" or "frizzante".
Happy New Year!