Christmas Customs: Breaking the pomegranate
A wonderful Greek custom begins with the pomegranate. It is not a coincidence that all the homemade, crates in our grocery stores, and all the food shops are decorated by these wonderful fruits these days.
The pomegranate is a symbol of fertility, rebirth and prosperity for thousands of years and can be traced back in Greek mythology.
For the above reason, when the clock during New Year’s Eve strikes twelve, all the lights go out and the whole family goes out on the doorstep of the house. Then the one we choose to enter the door of the house first -usually father of the house- breaks the pomegranate and the wonderful red fruits pop up on our door. He always breaks it with his right hand and we always enter with his right foot as this we believe will bring luck in the new year.
The juicy pieces of pomegranate that look like rubies fill the house with health and happiness as well as the pomegranate seeds. If you are one of the lucky ones who gets a bit of paint from the pomegranates, don’t worry about it as this should bring some luck!.
Certainly, like all customs in Greece, the way and the symbolism changes from place to place. Nevertheless, this was one of my favourite Christmas customs when I was young.
Some have argued that the pomegranate is the “apple” of the Eden Bible Garden. It is also referred to as the “fruit of paradise”, a fact that shows its appreciation in many different cultures. In contrast, the ancient Greeks called it “the fruit of the dead” and provided food to the inhabitants of Hades.
It is easy to imagine that pomegranate seeds enhanced the association with fertility. Perhaps from the Greek myth according to which Persephone must spend 6 months in the underworld, after Hades forced her to eat six pomegranate seeds, but her return is celebrated with the coming of spring.
The pomegranate was also associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries as priests wore wreaths of pomegranate branches during the ceremonies. The unique flavour’s of the fruit, with the sweetness often combined with the acidity, make the pomegranate easily loved by many.
Invaluable to early desert traveller’s as an easily transportable, well-protected form of water. Invaluable even today not only for its wonderful shape, its red seeds but it is also considered one of the elixirs of youth both as a juice and as an ingredient for cosmetic companies.
Pomegranate is rich in sugars and vitamins A, B, C but also minerals such as: phosphorus, potassium, sodium and iron and has more antioxidants than red wine or green tea.
Not sure if you will break a pomegranate this year, like most of the Greeks, but either way I wish your year is as rosy as its wonderful deep red color!