The tradition of wearing red underwear to bring in the new year is said to date back to the Middle Ages when you were not allowed to wear red garments. Red was forbidden because the color was associated with blood, the devil and witchcraft. However some people wore red garments anyway, believing that in the dark winter, red garments were a symbol of life.
As red garments were not allowed, they wore them under their clothes, trying to avoid the prevailing mondo punishment – the gallows. I think the custom is a cute one, especially when done correctly as demonstrated on the DOMAI site. Maybe we can start our own trend in the United States? Here are how three of countries (source Wikipedia) that celebrate this way do so:
Italians call New Year’s Eve Capodanno (the “head of the year”) or Notte di San Silvestro (the night of St. Silvestro). Traditionally there are a set of rituals for the new year, such as wearing red underwear and getting rid of old or unused items by dropping them from the window, but this is and old tradition, followed by quite nobody today. Dinner is traditionally eaten with parents and friends. It often includes zampone or cotechino (a kind of spiced Italian sausage) and lentils. At half past eight pm, The President of the Republic reads a television message of greetings to Italians. At midnight, fireworks are displayed across Italy.
Spanish New Year’s Eve (Nochevieja or Fin de Año in Spanish, Cap d’Any in Catalan, Cabo d’Anyo in Aragonese) celebrations usually begin with a family dinner, traditionally including shrimp and lamb or capon. Spanish tradition says that wearing new, red underwear on New Year’s Eve brings good luck. The actual countdown is primarily followed from the clock on top of the Casa de Correos building in Puerta del Sol square in Madrid. It is traditional to eat twelve grapes, one on each chime of the clock. This tradition has its origins in 1909, when grape growers in Alicante thought of it as a way to cut down on the large production surplus they had had that year. Nowadays, the tradition is followed by almost every Spaniard, and the twelve grapes have become synonymous with the New Year. After the clock has finished striking twelve, people greet each other and toast with sparkling wine such as cava or champagne, or alternatively with cider.
After the family dinner and the grapes, many young people attend New Year parties at pubs, discothèques and similar places (these parties are called cotillones de nochevieja, after the Spanish word cotillón, which refers to party supplies like confetti, party blowers, party hats, etc.). Parties usually last until the next morning and range from small, personal celebrations at local bars to huge parties with guests numbering the thousands at hotel convention rooms. Early next morning, party attendees usually gather to have the traditional winter breakfast of chocolate con churros (xurros amb xocolata in Catalan), hot chocolate and fried pastry.
In Venezuela, many of the traditions are very similar to the ones from Spain, with an over-emphasis in traditions that supposedly will bring good luck in the year forthcoming. Those who want to find love in the New Year are supposed to wear red underwear on New Year’s Eve; those who want money must have a bill of high value when toast, those who want to travel must go out home while carrying some luggage, and so on. Yellow underwear is worn to bring happiness in the New Year.
Usually, people listen to radio specials, which give a countdown and announce the New Year according to the legal hour in Venezuela, and, in Caracas, following the twelve bells from the Cathedral of Caracas. During these special programs is a tradition to broadcast songs about the sadness on the end of the year, being popular favorites “Viejo año” (“Old year”) by Gaita group Maracaibo 15 and “Cinco pa’ las 12” (“Five minutes before twelve”) who was versioned by several popular singers like Nestor Zavarce, Nancy Ramos and José Luis Rodríguez El Puma, and the unofficial hymn for the first minutes of the New Year is “Año Nuevo, Vida Nueva” (“New Year, New Life”), by the band Billo’s Caracas Boys.
If you think I’m enjoying this post a little too much… Well, you’d be right. Can’t wait for New Year’s celebrations to start in four days.