Today we will talk about some Italian New Year’s Eve traditions that you may even get to experience yourself if you are lucky enough to be there by then. As Italians have migrated a lot, and they are known to be highly superstitious, a number of these traditions could be not only well documented but also practiced in other places.
LEARN ABOUT SOME ITALIAN NEW YEAR’S EVE TRADITIONS
If you are in Italy, eating lentils is a staple among Italian traditions for New Year. Lentils may resemble ancient gold coins, so it is said that if you eat lentils on New Year’s Eve, you will be lucky and earn money in the year ahead.
WEAR SOMETHING RED
Well, this is “something” so to speak. As to one of these Italian New Year’s Eve traditions, yes, you have to put on some red garment to begin the year, and usually, these garments are… undergarments. Red is a lucky color to wear at this time. There is a condition for this tradition to work: 1) Red underwear needs to be new; 2) You cannot buy it yourself: it has to be a gift. Don’t put the poor lingerie to flames if your year is not going as expected but you went shopping for it!
WATCH PEOPLE DIVE IN THE TIBER (TUFFI NEL TEVERE) RIVER ON JANUARY 1ST
Unlike what happens in other places of the world, namely some countries in Eastern Europe, where quite a number of people dive into extremely cold waters at the beginning of the year, one of the New Year’s Eve traditions in Italy is a one-man show. It’s started in 1946: the diver, the first Mister OK (called so because of the OK sign he did before the dive), a Belgian who had got Spanish Fever in 1918, jumped off a bridge into the Roman river Tiber as a way to thank for his healing. The new swimsuit-clad Mister OK has kept the tradition for over 30 years and in 2022 not even did COVID prevent him from accomplishing his yearly feat.
BURN THE OLD MAN (FALÒ DEL VECCHIONE) IN BOLOGNA
Who doesn’t want to get rid of all the bad things of the year that are going and start afresh? No doubt for the Bolognesi, who burn a gigantic old man representing the old year at Piazza Maggiore as a way to turn all that didn’t turn up well to ashes. This tradition has a peculiarity: when it is a leap year, people from Bologna and the surrounding comuni won’t burn an old man but an old woman. The Bologna event is very traditional in this city but it shares a resemblance with other Northeastern Italy’s fires celebrating the beginning of a year.
OBSERVE THE FIRST PERSON YOU MEET AFTER MIDNIGHT
May not be one of the more common Italian New Year’s Eve traditions as red underwear and lentils are, but if you are feeling like to know what the incoming year will be like, you just need to apply your observational skills on the first person you run into on the streets once midnight has struck and it finally is January 1st. By doing so, pay attention if the one you will be meeting first in the year is an old person or even a hunchback: it may be a presage that the new year will be full of unexpected but not necessarily unpleasant events for you, so go for it!
On the contrary, in other cultures, babies are even a symbol of good luck and future hope, while doctors would have to do with science, progress, and all the benefits that they bring on, and priests would represent tolerance, fraternal love, and universal understanding. Not in Italy, at least when it comes to messages from the divine: if they are the first you see when St. Sylvester’s night (as Italians call New Year’s Eve) is over, you can’t run, you can’t hide: in bad luck, no one will hear you scream, and this might be a sorry year for you.
AND SINCE NEW YEAR’S EVE IS COMING FAST…
This has been a great year of learning and getting acquainted with curious and not-so-curious facts about the Italian language and culture (such as Italian New Year’s Eve traditions). You might be lucky enough to be spending this time in an Italian city. A few words about it: Big Italian cities New Year’s Eves are wonderful events that you should experience at least once in your life. Particularly, while Christmas is rather celebrated among family members around a dinner table, New Year’s Eve is much more of an event to “get on the loose” across the streets. Fireworks close to the Coliseum, surrounded by a bunch of foreigners, are unforgettable.