Friday’s Fact About: Christmas and New Year in Cyprus

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

It is with great pleasure that we wish you a wonderful festive celebration today – may your hearts and bellies be full of love and good food!

Here’s a lovely article by mydestination.com that explains some of the traditions that are celebrated in Cyprus over the Christmas and New Year period, enjoy:

Christmas & New Year's Eve in Cyprus

Cyprus may not have snow during Christmas but it is surely a festive place to be with warm family traditions, special and interesting customs, lots of activities for everyone, unique events and delicious tastes.

Christmas is always celebrated in Cyprus in a rather traditional way. It is, beyond doubt, a magic, precious and loving holiday for both children and grownups. A time when people rejoice the birth of boy Jesus, spend time with beloved ones, exchange gifts, sing carols and… eat!

Christmas in Larnaka

On Christmas Eve our young Cypriot friends usually wander around the neighborhood from door to door wearing cute red hats, carrying triangles (small music instruments named after their shape), flutes or even guitars and sing angelically kalanda (Cypriot Christmas carols), confirming that Christos Gennate Simeron en Vithleem tin poli (Christ is born today in the town of Bethlehem). They usually donate the money raised from carol singing to charity; proving how open hearted and purely philanthropic children can be. Having returned hungrily to their houses, our petit friends enjoy a warmly baked Christopsomo (Jesus’ bread), which contains nuts and raisins.

And if children weren’t naughty during the past year, they deserve a gift fromAyios Vasilis (Santa Claus), who visits all houses on New Year’s Eve. Well, Santa Claus flies all over the world, which is for sure, but only here in the island of Cyprus, is able to enjoy a tasty piece of a pie named after him! The good mummies prepare Vasilopitta (Santa’s pie), which has a hidden ‘lucky’ coin within (the one who finds the lucky coin must keep it in his wallet for the rest of the year, meaning he’ll never be left without money in his pockets!), save a piece forAgios Vasilis accompanied with a glass of red wine. Our holy Santa, wanting to rest himself after the hard night-work of distributing the gifts worldwide, drinks the wine and blesses the father’s wallet! In the morning, when our little ones wake up with their cute pyjamas and their messy hair, they eagerly want to see their received gifts and, of course, enjoy the rest of the pie!

But what about Kalikantzaroi? These impish petit black sprites, according to Cypriot tradition, live in the centre of the Earth and come against people during the period from Christmas time to Epiphania. They enter houses via a… chimney-invasion and cause all kinds of trouble. They wet the fire in the fireplace, make the milk sour or even climb on people’s back making fun of them! In order to protect themselves, housewives wrap a spring of vasilikos (basil herb) around a cross and sprinkle it around the house with holy water throughout these 12 days (from December the 25th till January the 6th). Other ones, wanting to seduce Kalikantzaroi, make loukoumades (tasty bites with honey), throw them upon their house roofs managing in this cute way to keep the nasty creatures away, while singing a wish Titsin titsin loukanikon, mashairin mavromanikon na fate jai na fiete.

Christmas & New Year's Eve in CyprusNobody (de facto!) feels hungry during this cheerful period: tables are full and inviting: from delicious melomakarona (walnut biscuits with honey syrup) to delectable kourabiedes (almond cookies dressed in white sugar) and finikia, from stuffed turkey to pork on fire accompanied with a glass of wine, brandy or liqueur, one enjoys the company of others while playing cards or table games. Pomegranates are also very popular during Christmas in Cyprus and they are not only used for decoration: they also symbolize fertility as well as wealth and happiness. Note that many Cypriots fast before Christmas time, so the pleasure deriving from a festive dish is double!

Our petit friends are very lucky, as they are allowed, among the gifts they enthusiastically unwrap and the chocolate candies they luxuriously consume, to request a ploumisman (small tip), given from grandparents on the morning of Epiphany day. They demand their money-tip as they say the distich Kalimera kai ta Phota kai tin pouloustrina prota (meaning Good morning on this day but let us first have our money-gift!).

Another Cypriot Christmas custom has to do with olive small leaves. If there is a fireplace in the house, everybody throws in olive leafs, in an effort to see if he/she is loved by someone else. All he/she has to do is ask: Ai-Vasili vasilia, deixe tzai fanerose an m’ agapa o … (Oh, Saint Vasili, dear king, please show me if …. loves me). If the olive leaf jumps out making noise, the person one has thought about truly loves him/her. If no sound is heard, well, he/she is left out of the world of his/her love… But the others next to him ensure him/her that there is always hope for love!

So, if you are about to spend your Christmas holidays in Cyprus do not be afraid of a potential bad weather: temperature is normally around 15-20 degrees during the day, with the sun shining up on the sky – only rarely you may enjoy snow up on the mountains.

Christmas & New Year's Eve in Cyprus

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