Jun 292011
 

Confetti, to the Anglophone, means little pieces of colored paper thrown up in the air on festive occasions. In Italian, though, confetti are sugar-coated nuts (usually almonds) of different colors that are given on special days like weddings or anniversaries. Green represents engagement, white marriage, blue or pink for baptism, red for birthdays or graduations, and various other colors for wedding anniversaries.

Like many articles of food pleasure (e.g. coffee and sugar), confetti were originally made by apothecaries, the coating made with successive layers of syrups of sugar mixed with tinctures of various plants. Later they were offered at the end of banquets as digestive aids, then simply as a sort of medieval party favor. The tradition was extended to other occasions, whence the modern Italian use. There is some suggestion (see for example Gillian Riley’s entry on confetti in The Oxford Companion to Italian Food) that the practice of using seeds on certain occasions is a pre-Christian symbol for that anthropological catch-all , fertility. In Italian the word for the discs of paper thrown at parties (especially Carnevale) is coriandolo, perhaps reflecting the fact that instead of almonds coriander seeds were once used as the “surprise” in the middle of the sugar-coating.  ZN

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