New Year’s Traditions in Italy and Around the World

2012-12-31 12.21.51

With New Year’s right around the corner, in Italy that means the street markets and shops will be selling lots of red underwear.   Here is a photo to help you get a feel for what I am talking about.

new years italy, red underwear

Red underwear at street market in Rome. (*NOTE: This tradition requires that you get a new pair EVERY year, and that they are given to you as a gift. *NOTE 2: Men and children are also included in this tradition)

Now,  you might be curious to know why red undies are in such display this time of year.  It is a New Year’s tradition to wear red underwear in Italy, just like in America we have New Year’s resolutions – you know – where you vow to lose 20 pounds, or stop smoking or plan to start exercising, etc…

As always, I am comparing the two countries:

American New Year’s tradition: reach a difficult goal.  Italian New Year’s tradition:  wear red underwear.  Ha, ha, ha, ha….AGAIN, sometimes those Italians seem to be having so much more fun than us!  Gosh…lose 20 pounds or wear red underwear?!?!  Tough choice!

Now, although there is the goal/underwear difference, the two countries share a few New Year’s traditions.  Italians eat lentils to ensure wealth in the coming year, just as we eat black-eyed peas.

There are other traditions in Italy as well, such as eating pork and throwing old kitchen items out your window and onto the street.  This is an old custom not used so much anymore.  Supposedly by doing this, you free yourself of any negativity.

If you never saw the touching movie, “Cinema Paradiso” the rejected protagonist vows to wait for the love of his life.  He literally waits every night under her window for months, and nothing could keep him away:  not the wind, not the rain, not the cold.   It is only when his love closes the shutters in his face that he leaves.  There he is:  walking home all defeated with glasses and dishes being thrown from the windows of her neighbors.  Poor guy.   This scene will give you a perfect idea of this New Year’s tradition.  Here it is below:

Anyway,  after having a good laugh about the resolutions and undies and feeling sorry for the guy in “Cinema Paradiso”, I got a little curious about how other countries celebrate the new year.  So I asked some friends who live in other countries and did a little research as well.  Here is a small sampling of how others welcome the New Year:


In Denmark, friends throw dishes at your doorstep.  (Much safer than out your window).   So when you leave the house on New Year’s day, the more broken dishes you have at your doorstep, the more friends you apparently have.  I would be so sad to wake up to a dish free doorway!



Start walking with your suitcase if you want to ensure travels, by Russell Lee

In Chile, they have several traditions.  One is to go walking around neighborhood with your suitcase.  This will ensure lots of fun travel in the coming year.

Similar to the Italians, they like colorful undies.  In Chile, the color is yellow.  If you want happiness and a positive year, then you must wear your yellow undies inside out, to be put on properly after the stroke of midnight.

Again, similar to the Italians, eating Lentils at midnight will bring you lots of money in the next year.

South Africa


TV smashed to smithereens by imbecillsallad

Again similar with the old Italian tradition, the South Africans throw things out of their window, but they are a little more ambitious and throw out appliances and even furniture.  Televisions are a favorite.


A friend told me they eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight –  similar to the Spanish tradition.  But I also read they go swimming at midnight and also shred outdated documents and throw them out of their windows as a way of leaving the past behind.

I read about so many traditions and loved how many are similar from country to country.  Grapes, lentils, undies, dishes, suitcases, pork all seem to be common.  What are the New Year’s traditions in your country?  Please share some thoughts below.

In the meantime, wishing everyone a fabulous and safe New Year!


Fireworks in Florence by Martin Falbisoner

29 Comments on “New Year’s Traditions in Italy and Around the World

  1. Red undies and throwing things out the window sounds way more fun than dieting. Americans really need to catch on! Great post, Diana!

  2. In Scotland, there’s Hogmanay, which is the new year’s eve bit. It’s bad luck to wish someone happy new year until the actual new year, so you wish them Happy Hogmanay. Also, the first person to cross your door after midnight should be a tall dark man bearing coal (or wood) and Scotch. Also, all of the garbage has to be out of the house before the stroke of midnight. At least, all of that is what my Scottish mother taught me and tried to enact in the US.🙂

    Here in the Netherlands, you eat oliebollen (large, round, slightly more dense doughnuts that are delicious and covered in powdered sugar). There’s also a mad fireworks display all over the country. None of the fireworks are official, just individuals setting them off on their own. It looks and sounds like there’s a war on, with all the loud explosions and all of the smoke. It’s madness, but kind of fun.

    The Italian’s mother is here this year and we’ve been doing Italian traditions for the holidays, but I’m going to push for hoppin’ john over lentils, because while lentils are nice, hoppin’ john is so much better. We’ll have it with cotechino.😉

  3. Red undies, how bizarre! Here in the north of England, we have similar traditions to the Scottish Hogmanay above. My poor dad (who was tall and dark) was always ushered out of the door just before midnight with a piece of coal so that he would be the ‘first footer’ each year.

    • Hi Andrea…..thanks for your comment…love how there are so many different customs all over the world….I guess your father had the New Year’s task of being the first footer….but tall, dark and I assume handsome probably serve him well during the rest of the year. 🙂

    • Hi Graham! Thanks for the addition!!! Hogmanay – – – the word alone is fabulous!! Wishing you a wonderful 2015 as well!! Buon Anno!

  4. Ma che brava! Great post as usual. I really love all the display of red knickers!! So funny. This year I bought a pair too and for my hubbie as well.. I said to him sorry.. you got to wear them. I have a cenone to go too with loads of food and drink…cannot wait! I have done things properly this year: I bought a sexy red dress with fur and I have also done my hair at the hairdresser: I am ready to party!
    I hope you have fun too. Best wishes for 2015. Ciao bella.

    • Ha, ha, ha…I LOVE how you got hubbie a pair too! So GREAT! Sounds like you had a wonderful celebration! What a way to end a great year! Wishing you so much happiness in the coming year!!! Buon Anno!

  5. Diana, very interesting post! I agree with you on the smashed dishes…..but, I would hate to clean that mess up!! Happy New Year my friend:)

  6. My cousin and his family came to spend Christmas and New Year with us this year. They mentioned the old throwing stuff out the window custom-the first I’d heard of it. Apparently it was downright dangerous to be on the streets, with even very large (like sofa large) things being thrown out the balconies! Mannaggia! Buon Anno! Cristina

    • Hi Jadi! Thanks for stopping by….I know..that last photo is wonderful….if only it were mine! 🙂 He captured a spectacular moment in Florence.

  7. I’m so glad you linked to this old post! It’s cool reading about these traditions from around the world, and red undies is yet another Italian one I wish we’d adopt here in the states.🙂

    • Hi Katie! Yes….I really love the red underwear thing….many Italians don’t do it anymore….but I really like it….so fun and festive…my entire family in their red undies… is a nice tradition…..happy new year to you if I have not already said it. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s