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 Cyprus Culture & Tradition


New Year's Day
1st January
Celebrations start on New Year's Eve with the baking of the traditional cake (Vasilopitta) in which a coin is hidden. The cake is cut by the head of the family on New Year's Day, in the presence of all family members. One slice of the cake is always cut for Jesus Christ, one for the house and one for absent family members. The person who finds the coin is considered to be the luckiest member of the family for that year.
On New Year's Eve, children dressed as Father Christmas wander through the streets singing the song of Kalanda. In the evening, at the villages, families gather round the fire (phoucou) and play a game with olive leaves (Agie Vasili Vasilia). The game is said to foretell the future and is especially popular with young singles, who want to find out if their beloved will return their love. In Cyprus, it is at New Year, rather than at Christmas, that most people give and receive presents. New Year's Day coincides with the day of Agios Vasilis (St. Basil). So it is on New Year's Eve that Ayios Vasilis is believed to visit each house, blessing the people, their belongings, animals and cross and bringing presents to the children.
According to popular belief, whatever a person does on New Year's Day, he will continue to do every day, throughout the year.
Reveillons and special festivities are organised in all leading hotels, night-clubs and people's homes on these days.

Epiphany (Phota)
6 January
Epiphany is one of the most important Greek Orthodox religious celebrations of the year. It is the only occasion during which the Sanctity of the Holy Trinity, (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) appear together. It is also known as the Feast of the Light (Phota), because on this day Christ was baptised in the River Jordan symbolising the spiritual rebirth of man.
On the eve of Epiphany, known as kalanda, people gather in church for the blessing of the waters, which are supposed to have held evil spirits for the past twelve days. After Mass, the priest visits all houses to cleanse them from the demons, or evil spirits, known as kalikandjiari.
According to Cypriot tradition, these demons appear on Christmas Day, and for the next 12 days play evil tricks on people. On the eve of their departure, housewives throw pancakes and sausages on their roofs, where the demons are believed to dwell, in order to please them, so that they will leave contented without causing any trouble.
On Epiphany Day, a special celebration takes place at all seaside towns. After the Epiphany Mass the Archbishop, or one of the Bishops, leads a procession down to the sea, where a ceremonial baptism is performed. During the ceremony the leading priest throws the holy cross into the sea. Young men dive into the water to retrieve the cross, and return it to the priest. Doves are released and at the same time, boats sound their horns.


Carnival (Apokreo)
Carnival is a two-week period of fun and good eating, before the fifty days of Easter. The first week is called the Meat Week (Kreatini), as it is the last week for eating meat before Easter. The second week is known as the cheese week (Tyrini), when cheese and other dairy products may be consumed. Carnival festivities begin on the Thursday of the Meat Week, and the day is known as Tsiknopefti, gaining its name from the unmistakable aromas of the meat cooking. The last Sunday of the Cheese Week is the highlight of the Carnival. Parties are held and people gather to feast, sing satirical songs and play games. Many wear masks and fancy dresses.
Carnival parades and fancy-dress balls are very popular and take place in most towns. However, Limassol is the most famous town for the Carnival Festivities, and this is where most parties and balls take place.
Limassol marks the beginning of its Carnival with the arrival of King Carnival. From that day until the end of the Carnival, fancy dress balls are held every night in many hotels and night-clubs. On the first Sunday of the Carnival, a huge fancy dress children's parade takes place at Tsirion Athletic Stadium in Limassol. Celebrations end with the Grand Carnival parade through the main streets of Limassol on Sunday .


Green Monday
Although this is the first day of Lent, Green Monday is a day of gaiety, laughter funny disguises and vegetarian picnics in the countryside. The happy mood of the carnival is still in the air. In some villages people still wander around in fancy dresses. Green Monday is followed by a fifty day fasting period, during which Christians prepare themselves to receive the Redeemer, shunning meat and dairy products and living on a vegetarian diet.

Greek National Day

25 March
Greek National Day is celebrated all over Cyprus in 25 March with parades by students, scouts and other organisations in the morning. Events such as Greek dancing and athletic meetings are usually performed in the afternoon.


Anniversary of Cyprus' Independence Struggle
1 April
This is the anniversary of the start of the liberation struggle of the Greek Cypriots against British colonial rule in 1955.

Procession of St Lazarus' Icon - Larnaca
In memory of St. Lazarus, Patron Saint and first Bishop of Larnaca, the people of the town conduct a special mass-service, followed by an impressive procession of the saint's icon from St. Lazarus Church and along the palm-lined sea front promenade and other main streets of Larnaca.

Greek Orthodox Easter
Easter is the biggest Greek - Orthodox religious feast. During Holy Week it is customary for people to go to church both morning and evening for the services commemorating the Lord's Passion. On Thursday before Easter, after morning Mass, housewives bake their Easter breads, pastries and cheese pies known as flaounes. Following a very old tradition, they also dye eggs red. On Thursday evening, a representation of Christ's Crucifixion takes place in Church, where icons are draped in black. Good Friday is again a day of sorrow. Young girls and women from every parish decorate the sepulchre (Epitaphios) with flowers. The Epitaphios is carried in a procession all around the parish during the evening Mass. Each parish competes for the best decorated sepulchre and the most beautiful procession. On Saturday, during morning Mass, as the Priest announces Jesus' resurrection, the black drapes drop from the icons and the members of the congregation rap their seats to express their joy and chase the demon of Hades away. At midnight people dressed in their Easter best gather at Church to listen to the Mass of the Good Word. In the yard, young people pile pieces of wood to make a bonfire on which to burn Judas. The bonfire is known as lampradjia. After Mass people embrace and leave for home holding a lighted candle. At home they eat the traditional avgolemono soup (an egg and lemon rice soup) and crack their eggs.


Labour Day
1 May
May Day is celebrated in Cyprus, as in many other countries, as Labour Day.

Anthestiria (Flower Festival)
The origin of Anthestiria goes back to ancient times. In ancient Greece, these feasts were organised in Athens every four years in honour of the god Dionysos, the divine protector of the theatre. Anthestiria were also the festivals of souls, plants and flowers, celebrating the rebirth of man and nature. The contemporary celebrations of Anthestiria in Cyprus have a theme similar to that of the ancient feasts. The word Anthestiria derives from the Greek word anthos meaning flower. Nature's beauty in spring is celebrated during the Anthestiria in May.

Cyprus International State Fair - Nicosia
This is the most important and largest trade and consumer fair that is organised in Cyprus. Exhibitors from all over the world display products ranging from consumer to industrial goods. The exhibition remains open for ten days and is visited by a large number of local and foreign businessmen and consumers. It takes place in the Cyprus State Fairs Authority grounds, situated in the outskirts of Nicosia in Makedonitissa. (Tel. 02-352918, Fax 02-352316). "Makaria" International Athletic Meeting (Track and Field).

Every year athletes from different parts of the world meet in Cyprus to compete in the "Makaria" athletic meeting. It is an opportunity for all to see some well-known athletes competing with local talents at classical games. The meeting is held at the "Makarion" Athletic centre in Nicosia.


Kataklysmos (Festival of the Flood)
Kataklysmos, which coincides with the day of the Pentecost, is a religious and popular feast celebrated only in Cyprus. The word Kataklysmos, which means flood, is found in the book of Genesis and in the Greek myth of Deukalion. In both cases, Kataklysmos refers to the destruction by flood of all living creatures on earth, apart from the faithful and beloved men of God - in the former case, Noah and his family, and in the latter, Deukalion and his wife, who were saved in order to give birth to a new and moral generation. The ceremonies for Kataklysmos last for a few days and take place in all seaside towns and resorts. Celebrations include various games, performances of folk dances, boat races, swimming competitions and popular songs such as tchattista, which are improvised verses sung by different parties competing with each other. The most popular custom of the day of Kataklysmos is the throwing of water at one another. This symbolises the purification of the body as well as the soul.

Shakespearean Nights
One of Shakespeare's plays is staged every year at the ancient Curium amphitheatre. The event is organised by the Committee for Chest Diseases. (Tel: 05-363015).

Ancient Greek Drama Festival
Organised every year by the Cyprus Theatrical Organisation and the Cyprus Tourism Organisation. The festival aims at reviving the glory of ancient Greek drama in theatres dating back to antiquity. Performances are mainly held at the ancient Curium amphitheatre and at other open-air theatres during July and August.

Paphia Festival
The Municipality of Paphos organises various performances (theatre, music, dance) during the months of June, August and September at the ancient Odeon and the Paphos castle area. (Tel: 06-232804).


Limassol Festival
The Limassol Municipality organises each year its Annual Festival. It includes various performances of theatre, music and dance. (Tel: 05-363103).

Larnaca Festival
The festival takes place in the courtyard of the Larnaca Medieval Fort and the Pattichion Municipal Amphitheatre, and lasts for one month. The programme of events includes performances by local and foreign artists from the world of dance, theatre and music. (Tel. 04-653333).


Village Festivals
August - September - October
Most of the village festivals take place in August. They are particularly popular among locals, who visit their native or neighbouring villages to see their relatives, meet friends, greet old acquaintances and have fun.
The festivities usually include performances of folk music and dances, exhibitions of agricultural products, flowers, folk art, photography, painting, silverware, embroidery, the revival of village customs, etc.

Panigyria (Religious Fairs)
Cypriots also celebrate the name-days of their Saints holding religious fairs called panigyria. On the eve of the saint's day, villagers and street-vendors gather in the grounds of the patron saint's church and sell many different products, including local delicacies. The most popular delicacy is lokmades, small pastry balls, deep fried and then dipped in honey syrup. Panigyria are held at various times throughout the year.

Limassol Wine Festival
Cyprus has been famous for its vineyards for centuries, and wine has been produced on the island since ancient times. The finest grapes for making wine are cultivated in the areas of Paphos and Limassol. Limassol is the centre of the wine-making industry and the natural home for the popular annual Wine Festival. During the 12-day festival, which takes place in the Municipal Gardens of Limassol, some of the best Cypriot wines are on offer. The wineries compete for the most original and well designed stand from which to dispense their products and introduce any innovations to an eager public. Every evening during the festival wine from the barrels is offered free of charge to guests who can also watch the traditional pressing of the grapes. There is a large number of tables for eating and various Cyprus specialities are available for everyone. On some evenings, performances of music and dance are held in the open-air theatre within the gardens. (Tel. 05-363103).


Cyprus Rally
The Cyprus Rally ranks as one of the toughest in Europe due to the difficult road conditions. The Rally has a co-efficient of 20 in the European Championships, making it even more compelling for foreign drivers to participate and their number has grown considerably in the last few years. The Rally starts and finishes in Nicosia. It follows a gruelling course that covers much of the central and western areas of the island, including the mountains.


Cyprus Independence Day
1 October
Cyprus Independence Day is celebrated with a military parade in Nicosia and an open reception at the Presidential Palace in the evening.

Greek National Day 28 October
The Greek National Day, or "Ochi Day", is celebrated with student parades and other events throughout the day all over Cyprus.


Christmas Festivities
23 - 26 December
Christmas preparations begin forty days in advance, with house cleaning, Christmas shopping and fasting. Buying new clothes and shoes for Christmas is a tradition.
As Christmas Day approaches, festivities take place all over Cyprus and the Christmas spirit can be felt everywhere. In Paphos, a live re-enaction of Christ's birth takes place in the caves near Agia Solomini, on St. Paul's Avenue. On Christmas Eve housewives bake special bread (koulouria) and pastries (kourapiedes) while children go from door-to-door singing Christmas carols. Traditionally, children bring good health and fortune, so the householders always reward them with a small sum of money. Christmas Day is a day of joy and happiness and is lived to the full. Steaming egg-and-lemon rice soup is served for breakfast, after the early Christmas Mass. The feast continues throughout the day, with friends and relatives visiting each other's homes and enjoying Christmas delicacies.

December 25 is the beginning of a twelve day period marked by religious solemnity and beautiful old customs regarding love and prosperity, werewolf superstition and gourmet meals. During the Christmas period, reveillons and special festivals are organised in all big hotels, night-clubs and people's homes.

cyprus cultural events, events in cyprus, holidays in Cyprus, traditionin cyprus, traditional holidays in cyprus

Cyprus Public Holidays and Greek Orthodox religious holidays...



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