Full bellies and lazy days…Christmas Day has passed, and we hope that yours was wonderful.
Here’s a little article that we stumbled across that gives us some interesting facts about how the festive season is celebrated in Cyprus, some light reading taken from marycy.org:
Christmas Customs of Cyprus
Ah, it is “kourabiedes” time, and the sweet aroma of “melomakarona”
cookies will soon be filling Cypriot kitchens worldwide.
For the traveller to Cyprus, remember that many offices, business,
restaurants, and other amenities may be closed or keeping
unusual hours during the Christmas season.
Turkeys have invaded Cypriot Christmas customs, and so
travellers will find this dish prepared for Christmas feasting.
For many Cypriots the holiday is preceded by a time of fasting.
For Cyprus, the season is full swing by December 6th,
the Feast of St. Nicholas, and will
last through January 6th, the Feast of Epiphany.
Christmas in Cyprus is traditionally a solemn, religious holiday.
Throughout the festivities, there is no doubt that Cyprus
honours Christ at Christmas.
Beautiful carols called “kalanda” have been handed down
from Byzantine times and add to the reverent quality of the celebration.
Are the remote Cyprus villages, with their whitewashed walls,
stone corrals for the precious (in spirit) from a night in
Bethlehem so long ago?
While other cultures have Christmas elves, the Cypriot
equivalent is not so benign.
Mischievous and even dangerous sprites called “Kalikantzari”
(or Calicantzari) according to myth; prey upon people only
during the twelve days of Christmas,
from Christmas Eve to Epiphany Day, on January, 6th.
Apart from the “kalikantzari” other customs of the old Cypriots related
to Christmas celebrations, were the following:-
The children used to get their presents on New Year’s Day and
not on Christmas Day, as their “Santa” is Ai-Vasilis, whom they
celebrate on the 1st January.
So on New Year’s Eve, after the children had gone to sleep, the
mother used to place Santa’s cake with a coin inside by the
Christmas tree, lighting a candle on it and placing a goblet
full of wine next to it.
Tradition says, that Ai-Vasilis would come exhausted; he blessed
the cake and drank the wine. Then he placed the presents for the
children of the family under the tree. The children used to
wake early in the morning and after cutting
the “Vasilopitta” – Santa’s cake – to find out who would be the
lucky one of the year – it was the person who had the piece with
the coin in it – they rushed to get their presents from under the tree.
Grandfathers and grandmothers used to “ploumizoun” (give money)
to their grandchildren on the morning of Epiphany Day, on
the 6th January. So, the children, early in the morning used
to go to their grandparents and said the following verse
‘Kalimera ke ta Phota ke tin ploumistira prota” (Good morning
on this day of light and let us have our gift first). The grandparents
were pleased and gave them their tip (money-gift).