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New Year's Eve traditions in Italy

How to celebrate New Year Italian style.

Staying in Rome for New Year's Eve? Well, the Italians may not have Auld Lang Syne or New Year's resolutions, but they have plenty of other peculiar traditions to make up for it. And you'd better be aware of them; according to Italian superstition, how the next year turns out will largely be determined by what you get up to on New Year's Eve. So if you want to make the most of capodanno and have good omens for the next 12 months, here's what you should know about New Year Italian style.

The first thing is the way you dress. Now if you are heading to a posh do there is a good chance you will have already thought about what you are going to wear. But have you planned what underwear to put on? Forget about the rest, its what you wear under your trousers that really counts. Italian superstition holds that wearing red pants when the clock strikes midnight will bring good luck for the following year. No one knows the origins of this custom with any certainty, but there are two theories.

The first is that originally it was traditional for men to give their wives red knickers as a fertility rite; red because it is the colour of love and knickers for the part of the anatomy covered up. Then women started giving their men red underpants in return and now everyone wears red pants, whether they be married, single or divorced.

The second theory, on the other hand, holds that it has nothing to do with fertility and that originally underpants werent involved; it was just considered lucky to wear something new and red (a lucky colour) on the last/first day of the year. However, the Church came to disapprove of the superstition, viewing it as the first step down the slippery slope leading to astrology, spiritualism and occultism. Therefore people were forced to take the tradition underground (and under trousers) to avoid getting a scolding from the local priest about how they would burn in hell along with their fancy new red clothes. If you are planning to be in Sardinia for the big night, youll have to change the colour of your pants; there, green undies bring good luck.

And what will you be eating? Forget lobster, caviar and smoked salmon; if you want to be quids in, gorge yourself on lentils. After midnight Italians wolf down as many lenticchie as they can. They believe the more lentils you eat, the more cash you will have over the year. Lentils are thought to symbolise money due to their colour (usually green) and their flat, coin-like shape. They are prepared with cotechino (pork sausage) or zamponi (pigs trotters), fatty foods that are also thought to be lucky. So the dish is really a double helping of fortune. At midnight the New Year should be toasted with a glass of spumante or prosecco; no self-respecting Italian would offend their taste buds with that inferior French imitation, champagne.

An Italian New Year isn't all food and fun though; it can also be a hazardous affair. First there are the fireworks that youngsters throw around. Then there is also the old tradition of hurling bits of old junk (plates, lavatories, kitchen sinks and the like) out of the window after midnight. Italians believe this is a way of throwing out all that was negative about the past year. The police have actually cracked down on this potentially lethal bit of revelry and the junk chucking has been curtailed. However, if you are planning to be in a small town in the south of Italy (in particular in the Naples area) on 31 December be especially vigilant for flying garbage.

Even your sex life depends on how things go on the big night. Italian superstition holds that if you make love on New Year's Day youll have plenty of sex the rest of the year. If you dont, the next 364 days are set to be lonely ones.

So there you have it: all you need to know to have a happy, lucky, prosperous, safe and sexy New Year.

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