Friday’s Fact About: Christmas Customs in Cyprus

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_Red_Gold_Bow_PNG_Clipart

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).

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1 Response to Friday’s Fact About: Christmas Customs in Cyprus

  1. This was interesting to read as I have some friends in Cyprus I can narrate it to. Read my blog? Thanks. 🙂

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