Italy follows the Gregorian calendar, with New Year’s Day falling on January 1st.
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Italians celebrate the passing of the old year and the ringing in of the new with a variety of food, festivities, and old traditions. The Italian word for New Year’s Day is Capodanno.
New Year’s celebrations were first established in Rome by Julius Caesar, making Italy the official birthplace of New Year’s Day. In 46 BC, the Roman emperor declared that January 1st would be New Year’s Day. In the years that followed, the pagans in Rome celebrated the New Year by participating in drunken orgies. When Christianity spread through the region the celebration of certain holidays changed and the New Year’s celebration was moved to March 25th.
Pope Gregory XIII reestablished New Year’s Day on January 1st in 1582. Some historic traditions surrounding the Italian New Year include tossing pans, pots, and even clothes out the window to signal that the past is over and it’s time to move toward the future. There is also the tradition of wearing red underwear for good luck. Many Italians celebrate with food that may include white risotto, zampone sausage, and lentils, which represent good fortune. They might even incorporate raisins into the meal which signifies good luck. Later in the evening many Italians will attend Midnight Mass as part of their celebration.
The entire country is basically turned into a nationwide festival during New Year’s Day. Traditional music is played and dance halls are filled. Fireworks are a big part of the celebration. Colorful fireworks start around midnight to ring in New Year’s Day. While there are grand public displays of fireworks, there will also be plenty of firecrackers at private parties. Celebrating in Italy continues through January 6th with the celebration of the Festa della Befana.