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