A Southern Italian New Year's Eve ~ Romancing Italy
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Jan 1, 2010

A Southern Italian New Year's Eve


2009's New Year's Eve celebration took place at the nearby Partenone hotel in Riace and I went with preconceived notions about ringing out the old year. What comes to mind at a NYE party? Usually champagne, music, noise-makers, little pointy hats, dancing and lots of glitter, sparkles and everything festive.

Last night we arrived at the party and found everyone (except four people, counting me, out of perhaps 250) dressed in black. I mean ALL black, and in serious suits as in pant suits or jacket and skirt.
Because it was a dinner and celebration, we were told to arrive at 8:30pm. A complained it was too early so we didn't hurry and set foot on their premises close to 9:00pm. We waited another 10 minutes before we were even allowed in the dining room. 

The appetizers were set out on a large table and the darkly clad crowd descended upon the goodies like vultures drawn to a carcass. Those coming late, like myself, (late being about 5 minutes after the doors opened) found plates stripped of their contents and now littered with toothpicks, discarded paper and the odd delicacy rejected for one reason or another.

We all settled at our prospective tables waiting for the meal to begin. The DJ decided to pep things up a bit and requested we all stand to sing....the National Anthem. Yes, I want to start a party with my hand solemnly across my chest.

Mr. DJ played music from generations ago (I learned later); thigh slapping, hand clapping Napolitan tunes. When I looked around the room, I realized he'd made the right choice and thought perhaps we'd come to the wrong party.

One old fellow refused to stop singing his own songs at the top of his lungs and ignored the DJ entirely. He was a true source of entertainment. He at least sang Ole Sole Mio which I know.

We were supplied with our noise makers, hats and champagne and were brought to our feet a good five minutes before midnight by our cautious DJ. Obviously we were not going to miss this moment. (The old man was still bellowing out his songs, now with friends.)

At the stroke of midnight, everything went wild, kisses and good wishes were exchanged, a human train made its way around the room. Suddenly those women who could be my twice my age threw off their jackets, showing lots of skin, and hit the dance floor with their men. They were ready to boogie.

I was ready to enjoy some good dance music but Mr. DJ decided to put on the Hey Macarena and other songs like it and the men disappeared in a flash from the floor. He lost me too as the floor became one monotonous mass movement...the shepherd and his flock...and we were home before 1am.

(FYI, I am told the north celebrates the New Year with much more glamour and sparkle. The black clothing was very much a southern thing)
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