“There are some things, after all, that Sally Owens knows for certain: Always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder. Keep rosemary by your garden gate. Add pepper to your mashed potatoes. Plant roses and lavender, for luck. Fall in love whenever you can.” ― Alice Hoffman, Practical Magic
When it comes to following traditions, Italy takes the matter seriously: fish on Christmas Eve, meat on Christmas Day, lentils on the 31st of December.
If the first two traditions are linked to religion, having lentils for New Year’s Eve is purely based on superstition: the shape of lentils is similar to coins, and it is believed that eating them will bring wealth and abundance for the year to come. Some people bring this further, and put some dry lentils in a red tissue that they will keep in a pocket all evening.
Another food eaten on New Year’s Eve to bring good luck is pork meat: pigs search for food with their noses moving forward, therefore this animal is considered as a symbol of progress. On the same note, on this day is preferable to avoid eating animals that move backwards, such as shrimps and lobsters, as they could symbolise stillness and delays in the new year.
The superstitions on this day don’t stop there: rice is another symbol of abundance that should always be on the table on this day; and if carbs weren’t enough already, spaghetti are considered a must as they represent a long life. Veggies are important as well: red chillies are meant to protect the family from bad energies, while green vegetables should be eaten to guarantee wealth and richness, as they have the same colour of money.
After the main course, dry fruit is usually served for good luck and abundance, followed by very specific desserts that have a similar purpose: marzipan and struffoli. The word marzipan derives from the Arab word “mauthaban”, which means coins,and struffoli are fried balls covered in honey, which again represent the coins that would go to the family eating this food.
The colour red is particularly important in Italy for New Year’s Eve: not only on the table, people usually wear red underwear to attract good luck for the new year.
Some families rigorously follow these traditions, while others might just have a little bit of lentils “just in case”: however, even the most logical and rational person, will probably wear red underwear!
What about you? Do you have any rituals for New Year’s Eve? What is your traditional food for this day?