I’ve got a rusted old horse shoe hanging outside the front door. There’s a huge pot of lentils simmering on the stove. The cotechino is already cooked and waiting in the fridge. There are three large bunches of wrinkled prune-like grapes (passito), the remnants of September’s harvest, hanging in the cellar. They should be super sweet. I’m walking around in red underwear with an extra-heavy bunch of change dangling in my pockets. There’s mistletoe hanging in practically every room of the house (not that I’ll be doing a lot of kissing because women are strictly out-of-bounds for the duration of the evening). And I’ve got a bunch of crap (an old and worn non-stick pan, a broken chair and a cracked mug) sitting in a pile waiting to go out the window at the stroke of midnight! All the shutters are down and now all I need to do is find a bloody hunchback… emmm… that’s going to be a tough one.
Italians take their superstitions seriously. And it’s contagious. The problem is there’s very little agreement between the regions as to what constitutes good luck and bad. We all seem to agree on lentils though. Eating lentils on New Year’s Eve with cotechino [a large sausage], Italians believe, will bring good fortune – of the financial kind. Down the road in
Bologna and they eat zampone [pigs trotter], which is shaped like a purse, with their lentils. Modena
The grapes I’ve been saving especially for the occasion also symbolise good luck. As the saying goes: “chi mangia l'uva per Capodanno, conta i quattrini tutto l'anno". “whoever eats grapes at New Year, counts the money/coins all year round”. I’ve got a lot of grapes so I bought a calculator just for the occasion. On the subject of food, raisins and jars of dates and dried figs covered in honey are also supposed to bring a smile to your bank manager’s face over the year. I’ve got little bowls of raisins in the hallway, upstairs and down, a nibble for anyone passing – might as well spread the luck. I’m going to eat a bowl of honey-covered dates and figs with chocolate sauce and cream after dinner.
I’m going out for dinner – for the traditional New Year’s Eve cenone [literally Big Supper]. Luckily I don’t live in
so I’m going to leave the crash helmet at home. The Neapolitans believe that throwing old furniture - TV’s, fridges, pots, pans and the like – literally out the window will make room for what’s to come. It’s a prohibited practice these days but in Naples it’s best to be careful, just in case. I’ve really filled my pockets with loose change because it is supposed to multiply over the year. As for the red underwear, they say it wards off the Evil Eye. If you’re recently married, give your partner a pair – they will also bring prosperity and fertility! Naples
It’s a quiet neighbourhood and the restaurant is just around the corner but just to be sure I’m going to wear a pair of blinkers. After all, I wouldn’t want to spot any priests, grave diggers or doctors on the sprint home. I don’t know any grave diggers but doctors and priests are a sure sign of bad fortune (of the worse kind) to come! On the other hand, if I happen to spot a hunchback or a white horse, I’m sure to be in for a bit of luck. As for women, the jury’s out on that one – they say the year could go either way. I’m not taking any chances. I’m going to have a boy’s night out!
Thanks everyone for your support this year and for taking an interest. Let’s hope the next year is full of good luck and fortune for everyone. Happy New Year!!! Felice Anno Nuovo!!!
P.S. If you know any male hunchbacks living in my area, please let me know.
P.P.S. If anyone needs a loan, feel free to ask. I’m feeling especially generous [not to mention, they say anything loaned on New Year’s Eve will be returned a hundredfold over the coming year].