Why We Eat Pomegranates For New Year's Eve

Ringing in the new year is an occasion full of lovely traditions like sipping on champagne and kissing a loved one or a hopeful romance at the stroke of midnight. Of course, pledging to grow and change in the coming year is a popular move. There's a certain fruit that appears at many New Year's celebrations; the pomegranate. With a hard, gourd-like exterior and garnet-like gemstone seeds, the pomegranate may not be the most obvious party food. Regardless, pomegranates have a longstanding tradition of welcoming the new year with origins dating back to ancient Greek mythology. 

The pomegranate as a hope-filled symbol has been part of many holiday and culinary traditions. This fruit is an auspicious symbol in Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and many countries' art and cuisine. If you're familiar with the story of Persephone, you know that eating a few pomegranate seeds is what bound her to the underworld with Hades when earthlings experienced cold, barren winters. When she returned to the mortal world, spring followed, and the pomegranate became a sign of fertility, abundance, and luck. Pomegranates represent all of the things we associate with the new year and the hopefully imminent arrival of spring.

How to incorporate pomegranate seeds into your holiday celebration

To this day, there's a special New Year's Day tradition amongst Greek communities that involves smashing open a pomegranate on the porch to symbolize well-wishing for an abundant, luck-filled year ahead. In this tradition, the larger the seed splatter, the more luck you'll have. Thus, it only makes sense that you'd see a few more pomegranate seeds on menus around the holidays.

While pomegranates make for a cheery addition to the holiday table, you probably don't want to just have a bowl of finger-staining seeds sitting around. Luckily, you can easily incorporate these tart fruit seeds into your NYE menu. One of the simplest ways is just dropping a few of the seeds in your midnight glass of champagne. They'll bauble elegantly and add a little festive color to your drink. If you want to get a bit more involved, though, consider making a pomegranate-based cocktail like a Classic Belmont Jewel Cocktail which uses pomegranate juice, bourbon whiskey, and lemonade. Just garnish your cocktails with a few seeds and a charred lemon slice for an extra celebratory touch. 

You can also skip the cocktail hour solution and go for a more foody-centered route. Top a goat cheese and spinach salad with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds or take chips and guacamole to the next level with the addition of some pomegranate seed. The seeds provide a tart, citrus-like flavor that pairs well with lime juice and creamy avocado.