Grapes, lentils, black bun and first foots

One of the nice things about being married to someone from another country (Vito, my husband, is from Puglia, in Italy) is that you get to share each other’s national traditions. That goes for New Year’s Eve too (Hogmanay, here in Scotland).

Our Italian tradition is to eat lentils and grapes (not together!) as midnight strikes, as they represent money and prosperity for the coming year.

Our Scottish tradition is that Vito gets bundled out of the house just before midnight to be our first foot (the first person over the threshold) once the bells have rung in the New Year. Quick reminiscence: when I was a wee girl we used to listen out for the ships on the Clyde blowing in the New Year on their foghorns — such a melancholy sound. And a melancholy memory now, as the ships have long gone (the ones being built under the disputed defence contract, welcome as they are, don’t really count).

The first foot is supposed to be tall, dark-haired and male (oh well, one out of three, Vito) and should bear a gift (food (shortbread or black bun), whisky, coal or the like) to ensure that the house will have food and drink, warmth and prosperity in the year to come. We observed this tradition when we lived in Italy too — poor old Vito always ended up waiting outside on the landing as the bubbly was poured and the glasses clinked.

This year my wonderful sister-in-law, Ada, sent us a parcel that included home-made sannachiudere — little pieces of sweet short pastry fried in olive oil, coated with honey, heaped up into sticky pyramids and sprinkled with hundreds and thousands for colour. Sannachiudere is the Pugliese name, elsewhere in Italy they’re called strufoli. My in-laws always have sannachiudere at New Year, and this year we did too as we welcomed in 2011 here in Glasgow. Here’s the recipe, where they’re also called Italian honey balls and where I discovered a new name (for me) for hundreds and thousands: non-pareils. Is that the US version?

For more Lucky Foods for the New Year, check out this article in Epicurious, which has just rocketed in my esteem as they include chocolate as a New Year hangover remedy.

Have you got any national or family New Year traditions? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

By Marian Dougan

9 responses

  1. I’m Lebanese and my boyfriend is French, from Alsace. (I’m also a translator who follows your blog :)
    It’s the first time we spend New Year’s together, and we tried to combine traditions from both countries.
    My grandma used to break an empty glass bottle at the stroke of midnight, to ‘remove all the bad things of the past year, and keep them from following us into the new year’. Also, we always eat a ‘white dish’ (such as pasta with white sauce) on the first day of the new year to welcome it in style (white symbolizes a new and clean year/slate that is ready to be filled with – hopefully – wonderful new things).
    Personally, I always wear something new (underwear, PJs, or any item of clothing – yesterday it was a new handbag!) as there is also the belief that your year will continue the way you start it: if you wear new clothes on New Year’s, it means you will always have new clothes to wear during that year (hence, prosperity).
    In Alsace, the main tradition is fireworks. Everyone goes out on the streets and makes a lot of noise with their fireworks!

    1. Thanks for this lovely comment (and thanks for following the blog!). I hope you and your boyfriend both had a lovely New Year.
      It’s fascinating to see how different cultures celebrate the New Year in different (but often similar) ways, each inspired by similar beliefs: getting rid of old/bad things from the past, starting afresh, trying to ensure prosperity for the coming year.
      Congratulations on your new handbag, by the way — what a great start to 2011! I wish you health to wear it (as we say in Scotland when admiring people’s new clothes).

  2. Hi, I’m the “boyfriend” ;) (and i’m not a translator so forgive me)

    I will just add this : We use fireworks in Alsace because of our very old Celtics roots. It’s not all about the noise, but, for the “fire” too.

    Light and noises, fire and detonations, to send away the bad demons**.

    Happy new year !! ;)

    **wrong spirits

    1. You’ll find we’re very tolerant on this blog — even non-translators are welcome. So you’re forgiven. (What do you do, by the way?)
      You and Delirious reminded me of other Italian and Scottish traditions. Up in Stonehaven, on the north-east coast of Scotland, they celebrate the New Year with the Fireball ceremony. And in Italy they also have a tradition of fireworks, and of throwing away (often out of the window!) old plates and other household rubbish — again, for a clean, fresh start to the New Year.
      With best wishes to you and Delirious for a wonderful 2011.

      PS I love your photos!

      1. Thx for the photos and your forgiveness ( :mrgreen: ), I invite you to follow the tag on my blog to see more of them.

        I’m actually trying to evolve in web-design/website creation, I’m a former application developer but worked in many things like sales, food industry, and have even been a fire guard for the Council of Europe. (And I do actually some small translations too . . . ;) )

  3. The tradition in our house growing up was always for my Mum to give the bathroom a good clean, I guess tying in with the ‘start afresh’ philosophy. I just wish she’d got it done before the bells – she was always scrubbing the bath when midnight hit!
    With the bambini being so young, the emerging tradition in our house is to stay in with a glass of wine and desperately try to stay awake for the bells. This year I managed to last until 12.05 before hitting the hay! I may try making the sannachiudere next year – I think they’d be worth staying up for.
    Happy New Year.

    1. I took a tidying-up fit this Hogmanay too. We were so fed up with the lousy TV on offer that I decided to put on some music instead. The CDs were in such a mess I couldn’t find anything, so I started trying to sort them all out. Midnight nearly found me teetering on a chair trying to reach the top shelf (and no doubt falling off, once the bubbly took effect). I gave up, but the CD sort-out was Olivia’s first task on Jan 1st (she was delighted, not).
      Happy New Year to you and all the family.

  4. I had never heard of hundreds and thousands before. They are called sprinkles in most parts of the US except in some areas in the northeast where they are known as jimmies.

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