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NEW YEAR

Here’s why Italians eat lentils on New Year’s Eve

Toasting the arrival of New Year with champagne is nice, sure. But after the stroke of midnight, you may find Italians are more interested in eating dishes of lentils. Here’s why.

Here's why Italians eat lentils on New Year’s Eve
Lenticchie con cotechino (lentils with pork sausage) are a New Year delicacy in Italy. Photo: Flickr/Edsel_

With coronavirus restrictions in place again across Italy this New Year’s Eve, it’s going to be a quieter one than usual. But luckily, an Italian NYE party is easy enough to recreate at home.

To make it authentic, you need only three key ingredients: Prosecco, cheesy disco music, and steaming heaps of lentils.

As dishes of lentils are handed out to partygoers just before the countdown, any new arrival to Italy would be forgiven for wondering what’s going on.

READ ALSO: Panettone or pandoro: Which is the best Italian Christmas cake?

Lentils, or lenticchie, are believed to bring good luck in Italy, and eating them at New Year – shortly after midnight – is a tradition that’s said to date back to ancient Rome.

To wish friends luck and prosperity in the New Year, ancient Romans would give a pouch full of lentils as a gift. The coin-shaped legumes, which increase in size when cooked, were believed to represent ​​abundance.

The tradition is still popular today – so much so that lentils of all shapes and sizes are usually sold out in Italian supermarkets by December 31st.

READ ALSO: Why you shouldn’t suck prawn heads during an Italian Christmas feast 

Particularly in northern Italy, lenticchie con cotechino is the traditional dish served after midnight. Cotechino is a type of slow-cooked, spiced pork sausage. It’s a hearty and warming dish perfect for a cold winter’s night.

For even more good luck, some people serve lentils with zampone. Another speciality of northern Italy, this is a whole, boned pig’s trotter stuffed with the gelatinous part of the trotter and pork meat. 

So is that part of the traditional dinner on New Year’s Eve? Sometimes – more often on New Year’s Day, as the lentils are meant to be eaten once the New Year begins.

But even if lentils featured on your NYE dinner menu, you’ll get more of them later if you’re at any sort of formal event. This midnight snack is to be eaten shortly after you’ve finished your four-course meal (naturally, Italian New Year’s Eve parties are more about eating than drinking or dancing.)

Regardless of how much you’ve already eaten, you’ll need to find room for plenty of lentils. The more lentils you eat, the luckier you’ll be in the coming year. And we could all use some extra luck in 2021.

Member comments

  1. I lived near Castelnuovo Rangone, which boasts a festival with the world’s largest zampone. This is in Modena province. Zampone is definitely an acquired taste.
    Auguri!!

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ITALIAN TRADITIONS

EXPLAINED: Why are Italians angry at streaming platform DAZN?

The latest controversy to affect Italy, eliciting reactions from everyone from football fans to politicians, involves the streaming platform DAZN. Here's what's going on.

EXPLAINED: Why are Italians angry at streaming platform DAZN?

If you want to anger an Italian, one sure way is to take away their football games. This is exactly what happened on Sunday evening when the streaming platform DAZN logged users off just before the Serie A matches.

The bug couldn’t have come at a worse time.

The streaming platform has exclusive rights to the Italian first league, Serie A, and earlier this year announced a €29.99 monthly subscription and stricter rules limiting device access and blocking simultaneous viewing from different locations in an effort to curb “piracy”.

This is the first round of Serie A football matches since the new prices came in on DAZN. The championship is also coming back during the summer holidays when most Italians are home ready to watch their calcio, as Italians call soccer

READ ALSO: Italian word of the day: ‘Azzurro’

Many have complained that the new high prices come with a lousy service, with Sunday’s “blackout” only the most recent example. Users were given “emergency links” to log in, but many complained they could still not access the programme.

Politicians join the aggravation

Not only did the hashtag #DAZN go up the list of Italy’s trending topics (and it still holds a premium spot over there), but the dispute became political.

The country’s Democratic Party (PD) said: “tens of thousands of citizens have paid for a service in advance and now suffer with a shameful disservice, in almost all parts of Italy, for the problems with DAZN Italy”.

The party called on Agcom, the regulator and competition authority for the communication industries, and Serie A to intervene.

Politicians from all political spectrums have commented on the issue, including Carlo Calenda, Matteo Salvini (Lega), and Maurizio Gasparri (Forza Italia). Football players such as Daniele de Rossi and other Italian celebrities also complained about the lack of service.

READ ALSO: Home entertainment: a quick guide to video streaming, VPNs and audiobooks

On Sunday evening, the streaming service released a statement, later deleted, recognising the connection issues. “Some users are currently experiencing access issues on our platform. We are working hard to find a solution as soon as possible and apologise for the inconvenience.”, the company said.

What will happen now?

Most of the politicians said they would bring the problems to parliament or Italy’s communication regulator. The main issue is DAZN’s exclusivity rights to Italian football.

The problems will likely influence future decisions on who has the rights to show the games – with broadcaster Sky, which used to have broadcast rights to the matches, looking into getting back on the field.

Of course, nothing is certain yet, and at least for this season, DAZN will continue to transmit games to its subscribers.

One thing seems to be sure, though: If there is one issue that can unite all Italians, it is football.

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