CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS IN CYPRUS

Christmas and New Year are getting closer every day!

Since ancient times, the inhabitants of Cyprus have kept their special traditions associated with Christmas. Of course, over time, many customs are forgotten, but in the villages the locals are sensitive to the heritage of their ancestors, to this day they perform simple rituals and pass them on to future generations. 

We interviewed Cypriot old-timers and found out what New Year’s traditions on the island have been honored for many centuries.

Olive fortune telling

If in Russia girls throw boots through the fence and melt wax, then the Cypriot ladies have their own ritual. To find out if the girl will have a groom in the new year is quite simple: for this you need a fireplace and an olive branch. 

The ritual is this: you throw an olive branch into the fireplace and say: “Dear Santa Claus, tell me, will such a (name) love me this year?” If the branch jumped on the coals, then they will love you. And if not, then the locals say that you can guess forever, substituting different names. Perhaps someone will still fall in love. Very practical fortune telling. After all, the girl has an infinite number of chances.

There is another ritual with an olive branch. You need to take it in your hand, draw a cross in the air and throw it into the fireplace. Thus, you can cleanse yourself of evil spirits, believed the ancient inhabitants of the island.

The little pig in the wine

There is another tradition – it is to cut a young piglet and fry it on a spit in the circle of his beloved family. But, as Cypriots say, buying a pig on Christmas Eve is not considered. Here the ritual is more complicated. 

It is customary to buy a young piglet in the spring and grow 9 months. 2-3 days before Christmas, the piglet is cut and placed in a container with wine, salt and coriander. Then follows the complex process of hanging pieces of meat for soaking over a fire. When the meat is smoked and infused, it is cut and served on the festive table. Such an appetizer promises a strong family relationship, a good income and healthy offspring.

Carols

Well, this tradition is familiar to us. Children go out with songs, dances and rhymes and ask for refreshments from neighbors or relatives. Each house should have a large vase of sweets in case Santa’s little helpers drop by. Or a vase with a trifle. You can appease Santa’s helper with money.

Christmas money

In general, Cypriot Christmas is some kind of direct money holiday. Money can be requested not only in carols. For example, there is still such a tradition, called “plumizun.” True, you can get “plumizun” only on the day of the Epiphany – January 6. In the morning, children are sent to grandparents. There they read poetry and receive money from the older generation. 

As we all know, children in Cyprus are loved and pampered. Therefore, a “plumizun” can get a very serious amount.

Pie, wine and money for Vasily

Well, and more about the money. Previously, children received gifts only in the New Family. No gifts were given for Christmas. So, on New Year’s Eve, mother baked Vasilopitou – a cake for the local Santa Claus – Agios Vasilis, named after the Great Vasily of Caesarea. So, Vasilisa needs to be appeased when he comes with a full bag of gifts. 

Legend has it that grandfather will come tired and hungry. Therefore, you need to bake Vasilopit for him and stick a coin there. And put a treat with a glass of wine under the Christmas tree. Then Grandfather Vasilis will bring not only gifts, but also happiness and prosperity to the house for the whole coming year. And in the morning the whole family wakes up, eats the second part of the pie and unwraps the gifts. And whoever gets a piece with a coin, that happiness is guaranteed for the whole year.

Donuts on the roof

This tradition can still be found in the villages. Perhaps, in Giroskipu this tradition is honored to this day. On January 6, on the day of the Epiphany, the housewives bake xerotian or lukumades. Essentially, both are donuts. Then the hostesses go out with a bowl of hot crispy donuts and throw them on the roof of their house. If you do not believe me,  you can read about this tradition in the original source .

Why throw donuts on the roof, you ask? And then, that there is such a belief in the villages – the insects living on the roof, eat up delicious donuts, and leave. Leave the house alone. In my opinion, this is not enough logic. Why leave from where they treat you to yummy? Perhaps in the preparation of sweet pastries there are secret ingredients that discourage insects from any desire to stay on the roof.

UPD: according to our readers, there is still a similar tradition when spirits are driven out by sausages. They also throw them on the roof and appease.

Holy water for every home

And on the Day of Epiphany, a local priest conducts the Holy Liturgy. He goes around the house, sprinkles each house with holy water, wishing the owners a bright holiday. This ritual in Cyprus is called Kalantha. It is customary for a priest to treat or give gifts. At the discretion of the owners. Even if you don’t offer anything to the holy father, he will sanctify your home anyway.

These interesting customs still exist in the provinces of the island. Therefore, if you want to feel the real Cypriot flavor associated with the main holidays of the year, go to picturesque Cypriot villages. Impressions and a special atmosphere are provided for you!