Italian language: Don’t forget to eat your grapes
- WTI Magazine #122 Dec 14, 2019
Here we are again: the year is almost over and a new one will start soon. So, I thought I would take a good look at what expressions are typical of this period of time, of December, of Christmas, and generally speaking of the end of the year. Let’s begin!
First, let’s look at the month of December. Starting from the beginning, Italians say Santa Lucia: il giorno più corto che ci sia, which means that Saint Lucy’s Day – December 13th – is the shortest day of the year. Or at least it really must feel like it is: it’s cold, it gets dark early, and you are not on vacation yet. Then we have two proverbs that are very similar in meaning: Sotto la neve, pane; sotto la pioggia, fame – Covered in snow, bread; in the rain, hunger – and Dicembre nevoso, anno fruttuoso – Snowy December, fruitful year. Why are they connected? Because they both refer to a time in which the farmers used to plant the grain in winter. When it would snow and cover the seeds, the harvest was more abundant. While when it didn’t, when it just rained, as it says in the first saying, the harvest used to be poor. So farmers used to be happy and wish for a snowy December. I won’t even have to explain the next expression: Dicembre gelato non va disprezzato – Do not despise a frozen December.
Moving on to Christmas, one of the most famous saying is Natale con I tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi – Christmas with the family, Easter with whoever you want – which means exactly what it says: in Italy, you must spend the Christmas holiday with your family, while you can choose to spend Easter with anybody you want. It is considered a bit rude to break this “rule.” Then, there’s another straight-forward one: Natale viene una volta l’anno, chi non ne profitta, tutto a suo danno – Christmas only comes once a year, those who don’t take advantage of it will be damaged.
After Christmas, it’s time for some New year’s expressions. Let’s start with a classic: Anno nuovo vita nuova – New year, new life – which is often adapted to any situation: New year, new wife, or new husband, or new job, or new whatever you feel like you need to change. The other classic expression is Sereno a Capodanno sereno tutto l’anno – If it’s sunny on New Year’s, it will be sunny all year. This too is applied to everything you do that day and you wish of doing (or not doing) all year long. If you work on New Year’s, you’ll work all year; if you are lazy, you’ll be lazy all year. Whatever you do, you will be doing it for the rest of the year, so be careful and use it to your advantage! Then there’s an expression that refers to an Italian Christmas tradition: Chi mangia l’uva a capodanno maneggia quattrini tutto l’anno – those who eat grapes on New Year’s will handle money all year. Yes, in fact at midnight, you are supposed to eat a grape for each stroke as a good omen. Italians believe it will bring you money in the new year. Does it work? Well, better not chance it!
Which is the bottom line of this article? Well, of course I wanted to teach you some new Italians expressions, but even these expressions are saying that in the new year you should do what you want to do, change what you want to chance, but above all don’t forget to eat some grapes!