Pomegranate: The Ancient Greek Symbol of Life, Good Fortune for the New Year



Smashing a pomegranate on New Year’s Day is an Ancient Greek custom that continues to this day as the red colored nutritious fruit is considered a symbol of life and good fortune.

Ancient Greeks believed that the pomegranate’s ruby-like arils, or seeds, symbolized abundance, perhaps because of their quantity. They also represent fertility, eternity, and good fortune.

In modern times, Greek Orthodox tradition dictates that on New Year’s Eve, the family gathers outside and when the clock strikes midnight, a pomegranate is rolled and smacked on the front door of the house. The more seeds that scatter on the floor, the luckier the New Year will be.

Alternatively, this custom can occur on New Year’s Day when the family members wear their Sunday best, go to church to attend the Divine Liturgy of Basil of Caesarea, and welcome the New Year.

The man of the house takes a pomegranate with him to church for the fruit to be blessed and when the family returns home, he knocks on the door so that he is the first person to enter the house in the new year.

He then smashes the pomegranate either in front of the door or against the door, and he makes a wish that the juicy, bounteous ruby-like segments of the fruit flood the home with good health and happiness — and as many joys occur as the pomegranate has arils.

Ancient times

The pomegranate trees, were known since ancient times, and mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey, where they grow on the island of Scheria or Phaeacia in the gardens of King Alcinous. Furthermore Theophrastus and Hippocrates also refer to the fruit for its healing properties.

A bronze coin of Side, 350-300 BC: obverse, a Cortinthian-helmeted bust of Athena; reverse, a pomegranate fruit. Source: Wikipedia

The most renowned myth associated with the pomegranate fruit is the one of the abduction of Persephone by Hades. According to the myth, Hades offered the fruit to Persefone in order to seal their eternal bond. The pomegranate was also closely associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries as priests wore wreaths made of twigs from pomegranate trees during these ceremonies.

Lots of archaeological finds prove that the pomegranate fruit was known in the Mediterranean area in antiquity as it was reflected on ancient art. On Milos Island in Phylakopi, pomegranates were painted on urns. At Akrotiri on Santorini Island excavations brought to light urns with motifs of the pomegranate fruit.

On Crete Island Minoan findings also carry the fruit shape in paintings (17th century BC) where in Mycenae a beautiful necklace depicts golden pomegranates motifs. The National Archaeological Museum in Athens hosts the brass pomegranate discovered at the Acropolis.

Elixir of health and beauty

Pomegranate is nutritious and rich in sugars, vitamins A, B, C, minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, sodium and iron, and has more antioxidants than red wine or green tea.

This miraculous fruit is also a unique natural cosmetic. Well known Greek cosmetic companies, who base their products on natural ingredients from Greek motherland, use pomegranate in many products for skin care and anti-aging properties.