Breaking a pomegranate on New Year’s Day is an ancient Greek custom that continues even today, as the nutritious red-colored fruit is considered a symbol of life and good fortune.
The ancient Greeks believed that the arils or ruby-like seeds of the pomegranate symbolized abundance, perhaps because of their quantity. They also represent fertility, eternity and good fortune.
Pomegranate is nutritious and rich in sugars, vitamins A, B, C, minerals like phosphorus, potassium, sodium and iron, and contains more antioxidants than red wine or green tea.
This miraculous fruit is also a unique natural cosmetic. Well-known Greek cosmetic companies, which base their products on natural ingredients from the Greek homeland, use pomegranate in many products for skin care and anti-aging properties.
Modern Greek tradition of breaking a pomegranate
In modern times, Greek Orthodox tradition dictates that on New Years Eve the family gathers outside and when the clock strikes midnight a pomegranate is rolled and slammed on the front door of the house.
The more seeds scattered on the ground, the luckier the New Year will be.
Alternatively, this custom can occur on New Year’s Day when family members wear their most beautiful Sunday, attend church to attend the Divine Liturgy of Basil of Caesarea, and welcome the New Year.
The man of the house brings a pomegranate with him to the church for the fruit to be blessed and when the family comes home he knocks on the door so that he is the first person to enter the house for the new Year.
He then breaks the pomegranate either in front of the door or against the door, and he vows that the juicy and bountiful segments of the ruby-like fruit will flood the house with good health and happiness – and as many joys occur as the pomegranate has arils.
The fruit in ancient times
Pomegranate trees have been cultivated since ancient times and were mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey, where they grew on the island of Scheria or Phaeacia in the gardens of King Alcinous. In addition, Theophrastus and Hippocrates also refer to the fruit for its healing properties.
The best-known myth associated with the fruit of the pomegranate is that of the kidnapping of Persephone by Hades. According to the myth, Hades offered the fruit to Persephone in order to seal their eternal bond.
The pomegranate was also closely associated with the Eleusinian mysteries, as priests wore wreaths made from pomegranate twigs during these ceremonies.
Numerous archaeological finds prove that the fruit of the pomegranate was known in the Mediterranean region in antiquity as it was reflected in ancient art.
On the Greek island of Milos, in Phylakopi, pomegranates were painted on urns. In Akrotiri on Santorini, excavations have also unearthed urns with pomegranate fruit motifs.
In Crete, Minoan treasures also show the form of fruit in paintings from the 17th century BC, and a beautiful necklace depicting golden pomegranate motifs was found in ancient Mycenae.
The National Archaeological Museum of Athens has in its collections a magnificent brass pomegranate discovered at the Acropolis.