Cyprus Festivals and Celebrations
Easter in the Greek Orthodox Church is probably the most important celebration of all in South East Cyprus, a lot of the festivals celebrated on the island relate to Easter, the run up to it, the day itself, and its aftermath. There are however a number of other special celebrations that you may encounter on your stay which will give you a true insight into the culture, religion and passion of the islands Greek Cypriot residents, here are some of the most prominent:
Christmas Day - December 25th
Although not as important as Easter in the Greek Orthodox church, Christmas is celebrated as in the rest of Europe with religious services and feasting. Like in other European countries, children go from door to door, singing the traditional ‘Kalanda’ Christmas songs in return for small sums of money and special Christmas sweets.
Epiphany and January Celebrations
Celebrations start on January 1st with The feast day of Agios Vassilos which is celebrated by the eating of a special cake called ‘Vassilopitta’ which is baked the previous evening and contains a coin which promises good luck to the person who finds it. Following on from January 1st Greek Cypriots celebrate the baptism of Christ and the festivities build to January 6th with ‘the blessing of the water’. A religious procession walks through the streets to the sea or lake and a cross is thrown into the water then young men dive to try and retrieve it. Greek Cypriots believe that whoever manages to retrieve the cross, he and his family will be blessed all year.
Easter - April/May
The biggest event in the Greek Orthodox calendar also known as 'Pascha’. There are processions on the evening of Good Friday, midnight Mass on Easter Saturday, and lots of eating and drinking and games on Easter Sunday and Monday.
The Flood Festival (Kataklysmos) - June
A day of celebration of the Holy Spirit which takes place 50 days after the Greek Easter. This is a festival marked by the feast of the Pentecost or Whitsun. Kataklysmos celebrates ‘the flood’ and the saviour of mankind and the animals by Noah with his ark. The celebrations are all focused on water and the biggest festival takes place in Larnaca. The sea front promenades is converted into a large open-air fair with games, entertainment, toys and traditional food stalls. The events which lasts for 7-10 days includes boat and swimming competitions, traditional songs, dances and music contests.
Green Monday - Feb/March
Green Monday also known as ‘clean Monday’ or ‘pure Monday’ marks the beginning of Lent and is celebrated with music, dancing, vegetarian food and kite flying.