The countdown has started

Spekulatius and gingerbread? Christmas still seems a long way off after a scorching summer. Do we have to plan New Year’s Eve already? Really? We say yes. Because believe it or not, the holidays are creeping up on us all. And who knows, maybe with the following lovely and traditional customs for the new year in Italy, we’ll get you excited for the festive season with a taste of something a little different.

 Get your Crib before your Tree
It all starts with The Feast of the Immaculate Conception on the 8th of December. On that day, Christmas trees are put up in many households, where they can stay decorated until the 6th of January. While in Italy Christmas trees have only been a part of celebrations for the last few decades, the Christmas crib is a long-standing tradition. In the whole country, but particularly in the South, it’s an unavoidable tradition. In Naples, there is even a whole street of crib builders: they have workshops on Via San Gregorio Armeno. There you can find crib figurines of all kinds and for all tastes.


  The Bearer of Light
Right down in the South of Italy, in Sicily, on the 13th of December, Santa Lucia, the Bearer of Light, is celebrated with a big parade. She was born in the year 281 in Sicily and gifted everything she had to the poor. There is a dessert to remember this, still eaten today: Torrone dei Poveri, made from chickpeas and sugar, which can be matched with a fine sparkling Frizzante or Spumante, such as Mionetto Prosecco DOC Treviso Brut.


  Christmas Eve with Culinary Delights
Not a silent night, but thunderous canon fire instead: on the 24th of December, canons are fired from Castel St. Angelo in Rome to ring in the Christmas festivities. On Christmas Eve, it’s all about the food in Italy, preferably enjoyed in loud, happy, family circles. A typical Christmas meal generally consists of fish and pasta, rather than meat. And of course, a fine drink, such as the elegant Spumante Mionetto Valdobbiadene DOCG Prosecco Superiore, which is a superb match for fish and seafood. It also pairs perfectly with the traditional Italian Christmas cake Panettone, made with raisins and candied fruit, before everyone heads to Christmas mass. Presents are given in Italy on the 25th of December: Bambinello Gesù, the Child Jesus, gives presents, mostly to children. Important not to miss for many adults on Christmas day, whether watched on-screen or on location, is the service at St Peter’s Square in Rome, where the Pope grants “Urbi et orbi” in various different languages.


  New Year’s Eve - bringer of luck for the New Year
At Capodanno, as New Year’s Eve is called in Italian, food also plays an important role. This means a hefty mountain of lentils, “lenticchie”, as soup, or accompanied by the hearty cooked pork sausage known as "cotechino”. The greater the quantity of lentils you eat, the greater the riches which will await you in the coming year, or so they say. In earlier times, purses filled with lentils were even given as gifts at the turn of the year. The most important New Year’s custom is the wearing of red underwear on the night of New Year’s Eve. It's rumoured to bring fertility and happiness in love. It's also important to note that the magic only works with pillar-box red lingerie given as a present and even then, only if it is thrown away the next day.


  Sparkling wine behind the ears, for a sparkling future
Of a somewhat subtler colour, but no less seductive, is the peach-coloured Mionetto Rosé Extra Dry. Its aroma, with notes of pink grapefruit, raspberry, pomegranate and blackcurrant is alluring, when the corks pop at midnight for a toast with some bubbly. The Spumante is almost too good for another custom: dip your finger in the glass, and wet behind the ears of the person opposite you with sparkling wine, to bring luck in the coming year. Those who drink to the future with friends and neighbours in the street should watch out: in some regions it's traditional to throw crockery out of the windows at midnight. It creates space for new things - but it would be a real pity if a good bottle of Prosecco came to any harm in the process.


  And just like that, the holidays are over again
Christmas comes to an end on the 6th of January, the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, with “La Befana”. According to popular belief, the good witch had unfortunately missed the Christmas star which showed the way to the crib. Since then, she has been on her wandering search for the Child Jesus on the night between the 5th and the 6th of January, placing treats and sweeties for good children, and pieces of coal for less well-behaved children at the foots of their beds. Do parents also get something? Maybe a small bottle of Mionetto Prosecco DOC Treviso Brut?


  And just like that, the holidays are over again
Christmas comes to an end on the 6th of January, the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, with “La Befana”. According to popular belief, the good witch had unfortunately missed the Christmas star which showed the way to the crib. Since then, she has been on her wandering search for the Child Jesus on the night between the 5th and the 6th of January, placing treats and sweeties for good children, and pieces of coal for less well-behaved children at the foots of their beds. Do parents also get something? Maybe a small bottle of Mionetto Prosecco DOC Treviso Brut?

And with that, the festive period in the land of Spumante and Frizzante comes to an end.
Felice Anno Nuovo!

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