I hope you all had a wonderful and safe New Year’s Eve and a relaxing New Year’s Day! I pray that this year brings us to the end of the pandemic and brings us all good health, happiness, prosperity, and our best year ever….
Bob and I had a quiet New Year’s Eve and I prepared a mini tablescape reminiscent of the days when we had entertained large groups of family and friends to ring in the new year and say goodbye to the old.
I had a great deal of fun taking out the china, the plates, and noisemakers and of course, we had to have a few 2022 items thrown in the mix.
I added something NEW to my place setting this year and they are small signs or sayings of gratitude that I had ordered for Thanksgiving and at the last minute decided they didn’t look right with the Thanksgiving china pattern that I chose.
I thought these signs made a great addition to the place settings tonight and added that special touch of gratitude I wanted to express.
The sayings of Gratitude are * Thankful * Gather * Grateful * Blessed —-
These signs made it festive and added a special touch to the other additions to the table.
To start, a simple centerpiece with a clock to countdown to 2022 and some party favors.
We started our evening with some hors d’oeuvres. I originally planned on making them from scratch but last-minute ordered frozen hors d’oeuvres and they were a very good fill-in when you don’t want to stand in the kitchen cooking all day.
We chose a great assortment of mini-filled pies filled with sauteed mushrooms, roasted chicken and a three cheese blend, black bean empanadas, spanakopita, pepperoni bites, and tikka masala samosas.
We were full after the appetizers but we never fail to continue the Italian tradition for Good Luck in the New Year of eating lentils and some sort of pork product. Pigs symbolized prosperity so my family would eat “cotechino” which is the traditional pork product for this holiday.
Cotechino is an Italian, large pork sausage requiring slow cooking. Usually, it is simmered at low heat for several hours. It is made from pork, lard, and other spices but was never a favorite of mine because it is very fatty.
This is what cotechino looks like if you have ever seen it in a grocery store or Italian butcher and wondered what it was.
As I said, not a favorite of mine so I substitute with another pork sausage and that is a pork sausage made with added broccoli rabe and I served it over sauteed broccoli rabe with lots of garlic and olive oil.
You can also add the sausage to the lentils for a complete meal in one dish.
Lentils are supposed to bring good luck and prosperity so we had our traditional lentils and honestly, I love this dish so much, I could easily eat it every day (recipe below).
The shape of lentils represents a coin and they say that each lentil is a penny so the more you eat the more money comes your way. In addition, I added spinach which also brings good luck and prosperity because it is the green color of money.
I made lentils this year with another pork product for extra good luck and that is pancetta made from the pork belly.
Not to be confused with prosciutto which is made from the hind leg. Pancetta is similar to bacon but is not smoked.
We finished dinner with one of our favorite desserts (usually we have mini Italian pastries on New Year’s Eve but we didn’t go to the bakery this year).
My favorite dessert is creme brulee with a fabulous custard base topped with a crusty layer of hardened caramelized sugar and topped with fresh fruit.
Bob and I watched the ball drop in Times Square in NY and then at the stroke of midnight we kept another Italian tradition alive and we ate 12 grapes, one for each month of the year. (sorry no pic).
The reason behind this is that it requires a lot of willpower to save some grapes from the harvest until New Year’s Eve. When you eat the grapes, you will be wise and frugal with your newfound wealth.
When the clock strikes midnight, you should have a glass of sparkling wine in hand and we always drink Italian prosecco to ring in the new year. The LaMarca brand is our favorite prosecco.
As is the custom in many other places, it is traditional to seal the countdown to midnight with a kiss (or a double cheek kiss for friends) and to wish them all the best for the new year.
There are a few other traditions that we followed.
On New Year’s Day, Italians make sure they start the new year right by having some money in their pocket or wallet. This tradition is based on superstition.
Apparently, if you leave home with money in your pocket on the first day of the year, you’ll always have something in your pocket to spend every day of the year. My grandmother would give each of her grandchildren five dollars on New Year’s Eve to carry in our wallets. She wanted to make sure we had enough cash in our wallets at all times.
I know it sounds odd but even today after all the years that have passed since grandma gave us cash on New Year’s Eve, I always tuck the New Year’s Eve money in a compartment in my wallet and I call it the “emergency fund”. I make sure Bob and my son still have extra cash in a compartment in their wallet for their emergency fund and we carry it for the entire year. Some family traditions just don’t go away even after years and years.
The next tradition that we followed when my grandmother was alive was to ” Frighten away spiteful spirits”.
Some Italian families have fireworks for this reason (especially true in Naples, Italy where my maternal side is from). Instead of fireworks, we went out into the streets in front of our homes banging pots and pans with wooden spoons to scare away evil and spiteful spirits that were supposed to be lurking in the shadows during the transition from the old year to the new year.
As children, we loved to just make lots of noise and not get in any trouble for 20 minutes or so (it helped that grandma was front and center)….ahh, the good old days.
The last tradition that was introduced to us as children by my grandmother was to wear red undies on New Year’s Eve to bring good luck to you for the full year to come.
I had to research the reason behind this (courtesy of google) because grandma stopped at “it brings good luck”.
“Lots of market stalls and shops in Italy sell red underwear in the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Apparently, in order to get the most out of this good fortune, Italians only wear red underwear on December 31st.”
“For the red underwear to be really lucky, it should only be worn on NYE and thrown out the next day. The reason behind this New Year’s tradition dates back to the ancient Romans who wore red tunics during battle which represented blood and strength and instilled fear in their enemies”.
And on that note, I am going to leave you guessing if Bob and I wore red underwear this year.
I know there are so many more Italian traditions but these are the traditions that my family practiced.
Have a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous Year with all the Good Fortune your heart can hold…. and thank you for being so supportive of my blog all year. I love sharing recipes, stories, and life’s ups and downs with you. Enjoy the lentil recipe…
2 tbsp. olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 medium red onion, chopped
3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
1 (14 ½ oz.) can of diced tomatoes with their juices
1 bag of lentils (usually 16 oz.)
8 cups low sodium chicken broth (2 boxes) or homemade broth
4- 6 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 cup grated cheese
Cooks Note: I always make lentil soup when I have the bone of a spiral ham. You could use a ham hock, bacon, pancetta or skip this ingredient entirely.
- Sort lentils for any stones, rinse with cold water – set aside
- Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat
- Add the red onion, celery and carrots and a pinch of salt to sweat the vegetables.
- After 2-3 minutes add the garlic and pinch of red pepper and sauté until all the vegetables are tender, about 5-8 minutes
- Add the tomatoes with their juices
- Simmer until the juices evaporate a little and the tomatoes break down, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes
- Add the lentils and mix well to coat. Sauté 1-2 minutes
- Add the broth, bay leaf, thyme springs, and ham bone, if using
- Bring to a boil over high heat
- Cover and simmer over low heat until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes
- Remove the ham bone; when cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bone. Discard the bone; dice the meat and return to the soup. Discard the bay leaf
- Add salt and pepper and taste for seasonings
- When serving, you can drizzle soup with a little olive oil and serve with grated cheese
Cook’s Note– salt the lentils at the end of cooking, rather than the beginning, so that they don’t remain hard.
Until my next post, make every day a celebration!
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