Sunday, December 30, 2007

Italian New Year's Traditions

New Year's in Italian is Capodanno, and one wishes a Happy New Year by saying Felice Capodanno (especially if it follows Buon Natale), or Buon Anno (more common if alone, that is, after Christmas). December 31st, New Year's Eve, is referred to as San Silvestro. Of course, there are the usual fireworks, and some regional habits, such as throwing everything old out the window. The Neapolitans are especially fond of this, and specialize in getting rid of objects that make a lot of noise when they land, such as plates and glasses. Games may be played, such as tombola (TOME-boh-la) i.e. bingo.

But as you might imagine, food and drink are the main attraction. Sparkling wine is drunk, either (ahem) Champagne, Asti or Prosecco. They may have a cenone, literally, a big dinner, or just appetizers with drinks.

The most entrenched tradition calls for eating lentils with one of two porky products known as cotechino and zampone. The latter are the product of a desperate siege of Mirandola near Modena in the Renaissance, and if you ask me, it shows. Why else would anyone eat dubious porcine matter in pigskin (cotica) or even worse, the skin from the pig's trotter (zampa, so that zampone is literally big paw)? One way of looking at it is if you start the New Year by eating a big pig paw it can only get better thereafter. The traditional accompaniment, aside from the lentils (which symbolize coins, preferably Euros, and thus prosperity), is mashed potatoes. The sliced piggy parts are often placed on a platter and arranged artistically with the potatoes surrounding it.

See you in 2008.