Christmas Traditions in Cyprus!

Like everywhere else in the world, Cyprus celebrates Christmas with many special traditions and customs as well as delicious food! Christmas Day is considered one of the most important religious holidays in Cyprus. In contrast to the Russian Orthodox Church, Christmas in Cyprus is traditionally celebrated on December 25th. The two week difference is due to the use of the Julian calendar in the ROC and New Julian in most other Christian churches. However, the ess

Like everywhere else in the world, Cyprus celebrates Christmas with many special traditions and customs as well as delicious food! Christmas Day is considered one of the most important religious holidays in Cyprus. In contrast to the Russian Orthodox Church, Christmas in Cyprus is traditionally celebrated on December 25th. The two week difference is due to the use of the Julian calendar in the ROC and New Julian in most other Christian churches. However, the essence of the holiday does not change.

 

Interesting Cypriot Christmas Traditions and fun facts!

 

  • Did you know that in Cyprus, presents are opened on New Year Day instead of Christmas Day? This is because the locals celebrate St. Basil, the Greek saint who is linked to Santa Claus.
  • The olive branch game! In many traditional Cyprus villages, locals make a cross using an olive leaf by a fireplace, they make a wish and throw it into the flaming fire. Apparently, the person who throws the leaf must think of someone they love, and if the olive leaf makes a crackling noise and jumps when it is thrown in the fire, it means he/she is loved back!
  • Desserts are literally everywhere during Christmas? We all know that Cypriots are addicted to their cuisine, and who can blame them, it is delicious! Christmas is linked to two favourite traditional desserts. The first is kourabiedes which are little almond-made cakes coated with sugary icing. The second favourite dessert is melomakarona which are cookies made of cinnamon, nuts, a tad bit of orange and lots of honey!
  • Cypriots cut a cake named Vasilopita on New Year’s Day which apparently brings luck? Vasilopita (St. Basil’s Cake), is left on every household’s table on New Year’s Eve, with a glass of red wine. Apparently, St. Basil, who delivers the presents will bless the cake a sip on the wine. During the New Year feast, the family gathers and cuts the cake which has a hidden coin in it. The person who chooses the piece of cake with the coin in it is said to be blessed with luck for the whole year.
  • Did you know about the cross-throwing day? In the Greek Orthodox tradition, Epiphany Day is the day Christ is baptised. Celebrations are held across all the harbours, where the locals gather to honour the water which is a symbol of baptism. A priest throws a cross into the water and brave locals dive in the cold water to find it! The person who finds the cross is blessed by the church and is granted fortune and luck for the following year.
  • The legend behind Epiphany Day. The Kallikantzaroi are Christmas Hobgoglins who surface from the underground once a year during Christmas to play pranks on people. The Kallikantzaroi are short, ugly and very deformed little mischief monsters who find their way to people’s homes through their chimneys upon seeing their Christmas trees! According to the Christmas legend, the only way to keep these malicious creatures away is to keep the fireplace flaming all through Christmas time. On Epiphany Day, Cypriots tend to sprinkle holy water around their homes and throw loukoumades (honey puffs), warding the kallikantzarous away!

 

So 2020 may not have been the year that we expected it to be, but it has reminded us of what the truly important things are in life; our family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. We may not be able to physically visit them this holiday period, but we can still contact them and show them we care. We may have to do it via the internet or on the telephone, but we can still come together on 31 December and raise a glass to a hopefully brighter 2021!

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