Ancient Greek Good Luck Charms for the New Year

gouriaΓούρι (Gouri) in Greek means both good luck and good luck charm. Objects and practices that attract good luck are ancient customs that have existed through the ages — especially those that have to do with the New Year.

The first form of lucky charms were talismans, with primitive representations of nature and replicas of those who wore them. Today pagan Christians use offerings, sanctified icons and gadgets in the hope that the Saints would protect them from misfortunes. Others, again, use their lucky charms, a tradition based on folklore.

Some charms are believed to exorcise malaise and attract good luck. Especially during the festive days of Christmas and New Year. The predominant charms of the New Year are the pomegranate, the onion, and the coin of vasilopita that all are eager to win so that their year will begin with good luck.

The Pomegranate:
For thousands of years, the pomegranate has been considered by different peoples and cultures, a symbol of fertility, abundance and good luck. Ancient Greeks, before dwelling in a house, broke  pomegranate on the threshold, which is still customary in our days. To break a pomegranate is one of the most common New Year’s customs and means a good start. It is customary after the time change to the New Year and after the revellers exchange wishes, the luckiest family member breaks the pomegranate at the front door of the house so the new year is full of good luck.

The Onion:
The well-known to all Greeks custom of the big onion goes back to the days of antiquity as a symbol of regeneration and health. This perception is due to the great vitality of the onion bulb, which can be maintained and even sprout over a year without being in the soil. Nowadays in many areas of Greece, people hang a big onion outside the house on New Year’s Eve.

The Vasilopita Coin:
The vasilopita cake is the main Greek New Year’s custom and one of the few primitive customs that still exist. In ancient times, there was the festive bread, which in large rural celebrations the ancient Greeks offered to the gods. Such were the Kronia, the feast of Cronus, from which the word χρόνος (chronos, meaning year) derives. During the Kronia people made cakes and pies in which they put a coin inside. Whoever happened to get the piece with the coin would have good luck all year. The festive breads were round, like today’s vasilopita. Traditionally, the coin was silver or gold and had value, other than the luck it supposedly brought. Today the coin is mostly symbolic.

Nowadays, there are several stores in Greece that take those New Year’s lucky charms and create imaginative jewelry and gifts. Bracelets, pendants, brooches and keychains, are all made with special attention to detail, fine style, exceptional craft and what Greeks call “meraki.” You can find them online in e-shops such as Doro Mou, Efi Store and etsy.com.