How to Prepare for an Authentic Italian New Years


Italian Enthusiasts know that the best way to enter the New Year is by embracing Italian traditions.  With New Years approaching, this post is written to help other Italian Enthusiasts properly plan for a New Years, embracing authentic Italian customs that are practiced in Italy today.  Aside from the more universal New Years traditions such as family gatherings with tons of food and wine, Italians have no shortage of unique New Years customs, which not only celebrate the New Year, but also Saint Sylvester (San Silvestro).

RED UNDERWEAR.  Nothing embraces Italian tradition more than entering the New Year wearing a new pair of crispy clean red underwear, which symbolizes luck and love for the new year.  The underwear should be brand new, and given as a gift.  In preparation for New Years, buy red underwear for your friends and loved ones, and have a loved one buy red underwear for you.  Then for New Years, wear your red underwear with pride, like you’ve never worn red underwear before (and don’t be afraid to show it off if necessary)!  As we saw from a previous article written on, some Italian men prefer entertaining in their underwear.

Red Underwear
Lentils and Cotechino
Lentils and Cotechino

LENTILS & PORK.  Eating Lentils during a New Years Eve celebration is widespread throughout Italy and represents wealth, abundance and economic prosperity.  With lentils, it is common for Italians to add Cotechino or Zampone to the mix, which is a type of pork, and also represents abundance and financial success for the New Year.  Many Italian supermarkets in the U.S. are receiving shipments of Cotechino and Zampone this week, so be sure to buy some before they sell out!

FRIED FISH.  While eating fish is generally a Christmas Eve custom; many Italians also eat fish for dinner on New Years Eve, and then eat the Lentils, Cotechino and Zampone around midnight.  It is customary for the fish to be fried.  Types of fried fish include eel (anguilla and capitone), squid (calamari), cod (baccalà), mullet (triglia), sole (sogliola), shrimp (gamberi), anchovies (alici), and octopus (polipo).

Fried Fish

BINGO.  A traditional game to play during the Christmas holidays with family, including New Years Eve, is the Italian game called Tombola, which is similar to Bingo.  Tombola originated in Naples in the 1700s (according to Wikipedia), and it is a great way to have fun with family during New Years celebrations.

ITALIAN CAKE.  After midnight for the New Years celebrations, Italians eat either Panettone or Pandoro for dessert, which can be purchased at many supermarkets in the U.S.  To wash the cake down, Italians drink either sparkling wine or prosecco, and when they get their fingers wet from the alcohol (either accidentally or intentionally by putting their finger in the glass), they pat themselves behind their ears as if applying a scent of perfume.

Italian Cakes
Panettone and Pandoro

FIREWORKS.  In Italy, as is common in many parts of the world, fireworks are used in celebration for many important annual events.  For New Years Eve, fireworks are quite popular and lit off all over Italy to celebrate the upcoming year.

POMEGRANATE & DRIED FRUITS. Pomegranate and dried fruits are also popular to serve and eat for the New Years Eve celebration.

TOSSING OLD THINGS OUT THE WINDOW.  As a symbol of getting rid of the useless things in life and preparing for a new start, Italians in some parts of Italy find old and broken items in their home and literally throw them out the window.  If you wish to practice this custom, please do so with caution.

MONEY IN THE POCKET. As an omen of good fortune and prosperity, superstitious Italians like to have their pockets filled with money as they enter the New Year to symbolize a new year filled with money and abundance.

If you’re an Italian Enthusiast, like me, you will want to be sure you cover all your bases in preparing for an authentic Italian experience.  I will be spending this New Years at my home in Florida, so since I cannot be in Italy this year for New Years Eve, at least I can bring Italy to my home with the beautiful traditions and friends who also embrace Italian culture.

My above list is not exhaustive by any means, as in Italy there are many small customs in each town that the residents may observe, i.e., a special pasta for the New Year, or a local superstition.  I welcome my readers to comment and share their experiences and knowledge with New Years Eve Italian customs.



  1. I enjoy reading all the articles you have on Italy, and then having my own experiences from living here (Milan). As a American- married to an Italian, living here for the past 6 New Year’s, I find that Prosecco is VERY much a tradition for New Year’s Eve, and plenty of it. The worst thing that could happen is to run out of Prosecco. Thank you, and Happy New Year!

  2. New Year’s Eve we spent with our grandparents when we were young and at midnight everyone went outside and banged pot covers together !

  3. I really like your writing: detached n yet passionate! Thank you, I am enjoying your blog!

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