Good luck, prosperity, good health and longevity are the best and most common wishes marking the first day of the New Year among family members, and friends. Just before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, the lights are shut down to say farewell to the previous year and welcome the new one full of promises and hope for a better life, a wish many Greeks will be especially making as they ring out a bitter and brutal 2012 that was fraught with austerity and misery for many.
Customs and traditions around the New Year’s Eve and January the 1st symbolize the eternal longing of humankind for joy and good fortune, and Greece has its own unique traditions pledged around these two days, aiming to cast away evil spirits and bring lots of good fortune and blessings into the lives of the people.
Smashing the Pomegranate
An ancient symbol of fertility, regeneration and prosperity, Greek housewives hang the pomegranate on or above their doors throughout the 12 days of Christmas. Right before midnight comes on New Year’s Eve, all family members get out of the house and the lights are shut down to let go of the old year. Once the clock strikes twelve, someone considered to be lucky and happy must roll the fruit against the door of the house to smash and reveal its red seeds as a sign of welcoming the New Year and breaking loose its positive prospects. The more seeds scattered on the floor, the luckier the year will be.
In some areas in Greece, people go to Church with the pomegranate and return with it blessed at home. Then the holder of the fruit must wait for somebody else to open him the door and once inside, he rolls it with force against the door with his right hand (right is for luck, left is for bad luck).
Stepping on the Hairy Stone
A “hairy” stone is nothing more than a mossy stone people would find in rivers, lakes, seas or next to the village’s spring. Taking a mossy stone into your home for the New Year was a sign of good luck. They would leave it next to the threshold and step on it before entering the house for the first time on New Year’s day.
According to tradition, it is believed that the first person to enter the house on New Year’s Eve brings either good luck or bad luck. To have a lucky and good year, the person that enters the house first must be a loving and lucky one. The best one for the “podariko” would be a little child, since they are considered to be the best omen, with their innocence, pure hearts and honesty. This “first step” into the house and into the New Year must be made with the right foot, so as for happiness and prosperity to bless the house and its owners.
The Big Onion
Scilla Maritima or Urginea Maritima is the scientific names for what most Greeks know as the squill bulb hung on to the front door on New Year’s Eve. The plant looking like a huge onion is what anient Greeks used to worship god of the wild and nature Pan. Even if you uproot this plant it will continue to grow layers and blossoms, which made people throughout the ages to believe that it had some strong magical powers of regeneration in it. The custom is recorded to survive since the 6th century BC and even Pythagoras is reported to have hanged the squill bulb outside his door to ensure he would cherish good health and good luck. After New Year has come, the houseowner takes the bulb and keeps it in the house all year long.