Every country, family and culture have a set of traditions that hold true meaning. Over the years, these traditions change and manifest based on our current lifestyle. Italy is filled with traditions and customs. Some of these traditions have been passed down for several generations, even as far back as the coming of Christ. For the most part, Italy is Roman Catholic and has had a history of Jewish heritage, but recent immigration into the country from the East is slowly changing the face of the country. Italians across the globe and those in Italy hold on to these simple habits during the holidays. The types of foods served and dos and don’ts bind us altogether from around the world. Respectfully, we honor these holiday methods to keep us connected. We feel connected to our ancestry, the land, ourselves and to the people around us near or far.
This New Year’s Eve my family came together to celebrate the ending of 2013 and the beginning of 2014 with Asti Spumanti, panettone bread, lentil soup and sausage. I’m not quite sure if this is a tradition for all Italians or even Sicilian, but I am definitely sure this is our family tradition. After the ball drops in Times Square and the clock clicks to midnight, we break open the Asti, raise our glasses and say, “cin cin, salute!”. Soon after, my mother serves up the lentil soup. From early on, I have been told lentils bring fortune and wealth. The more lentils, the wealthier you will be in the coming year. Nonetheless, I had two bowls! You can translate wealth to mean monetary wealth, but I believe it means well-being and contentment. We don’t have a special lentil soup recipe that has been passed down from generation to generation. The ingredients are quite simple. A bag of lentils, celery, carrots, onions and tomatoes plus seasoning to taste. Once the soup has cooked and ready to be served, mix in a bit of genuine extra virgin olive oil and there you go. Simple and delicious!
This year, I hope to bring some of those non-holiday traditions to life. The beauty about Italy is the continuation of traditions. Regardless of modern changes and the influence from the East or West, Italy is a stubborn nation, which keeps to its core belief of wealth, love and happiness. They honor food and the arts in all its glory. Italians’ passion for life is bountiful. They keep up traditions to keep history alive and to keep their spirit alive. You may think I’ve taken this point of view a little too far, but just see for yourself and join me on one of my journeys. Let the people of Italy show you their wealth and maybe you might want to take home a new family tradition or make it your own. Italians love to share what they are passionate about. They do so with a warm heart and with arms wide open.
However you celebrate the new year, I wish you a happy and healthy 2014. Buon Anno!