Although I am not one for resolutions at the beginning of each year, there are two very strict rituals I abide by at new year’s– one is to crack open a pomegranate as soon as the clock turns midnight , the other one is to pay a visit to Ayin Biri Church in Unkapani first thing in the morning on January 1st.
My belief is that each and every deep red pomegrenate seed signifies abundance and when I toss one out with all my might, the seeds scatter out to bring opulence my way. This year’s ceremony was even more special as my seven year old niece, the love of my life, my angel stayed up to hurl one out with me. We giggled, cherished the moment and made sure to take photos of that tradition we now call “ours”.
The next morning I was at Ayin Biri Kilisesi (which literally translates as “The First Day of the Month Church”) by 8:00 am. This tiny little church of two floors is located behind Istanbul Manifaturacilar Carsisi in Unkapani and is only open on the first day of each month. Almost invisible behind tall walls, it is built on the grounds of a sacred spring with lots and lots of street sellers in front offering charms for riches, health, success, husband, wife, baby, new home….
It is best to arrive at the church pretty early as the queues can become fairly long which may even be enjoyable if you can spare the time as each and every visitor becomes acquainted via personal stories. Religious devotees of all faiths from all over the world flock to the site buying little keys and candles for each and every wish they hold. If the wish comes true, the keys are supposed to be returned to the church.
Inside, all the hopeful souls line up and pretend to unlock the icons locked up in wooden frames, almost as if pretending to open the door to their wishes. Each and every year I have five wishes for myself, family and friends – health, happiness, prosperity, love and peace – my little trincket box is full of these charming keys as I have always opted to keep and enjoy their warmth in my home.
Part of the pilgrimage ritual entails filling up a plastic bottle with water from the sacred fountain to give as a present to loved ones and be blessed by the priest on the way out, the peace in those eyes being worth a million words.
They say new year’s resolutions are a bit like babies: They’re fun to make but extremely difficult to maintain so I only have one simple wish for 2014. I would like to be very happy surrounded with my beloved family and friends.