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  • An Italian New Year's Eve Party
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    JANUARY 1, 2005 - As Italians ushered in 2005, they uncorked about 30 million bottles of spumante wine, mostly from the comfort of their homes. About 55% of Italians said they were going to have a New Year's Eve dinner a casa instead of going out for expensive meals or parties. Truly, Capo d'Anno or New Year's Eve is a one-of-a-kind celebration in Italy. If you haven't experienced it, you don't know what you've been missing. Here are the highlights:

    You'll see fireworks. Italians go outside their front doors and set off their own fireworks at midnight. As an American I usually flip out for fear of someone losing a limb - that is, until that splash of color hits the sky and tranquilizes me. If you're in Napoli or other parts of the south, you might have to be extra careful. Some people still keep the old tradition of throwing their old china out the window at midnight. It symbolizes renewal and replenishment. Some of my relatives say it's just a way to force your husband to agree to buying new dishes. Either way, beware of objects falling from the sky.

    Eat up for luck. You'll be using that spumante to wash down a plate of lentils that are probably bathed in lemon and garlic. Italians eat lentils on New Year's Eve to gain fortune and happiness in the coming year. It's their version of a fortune cookie minus the piece of paper.

    B-I-N-G-O! The Italian version of bingo is tombola and it's a popular game throughout the holiday season. Even some of the Italian variety shows on RAI make tombola part of their repertoire during Christmas, New Year's Eve and the Epiphany. Most Italians reserve the game for Christmas Eve while they are waiting to go to midnight Mass. However, my family has always also enjoyed it on New Year's. Coming from the Neapolitan island Ischia, we favor Tombola Napoletana. Each number represents an image. For example, number 13 is Saint Anthony, number one is Italy and number 28 is a half naked woman. It certainly keeps everyone awake!

    Sing a song. Not everyone is as fortunate as I am. The last time I was in Italy on New Year's Eve, the calendar turned to 1999 and I spent the night with my cousins Govinca, Giusi, Sebas, Giorgio and Mirriam. Sebas played the guitar, Giorgio the saxophone and the others sang until the clock struck 12. Nothing beats Govinca's rendition of “Caruso” sung into a breadstick wrapped in prosciutto. Now that's an Italian New Year!

    Want to share your New Year's Eve traditions? Drop me a note at


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