Like everywhere else in the world who celebrates the birth of Christ, Cyprus celebrates Christmas with many special traditions and customs as well as delicious food! But, did you know that……?
- Did you know that 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.
- Did you know that 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!
- Did you know that Cypriots do the whole fasting before Christmas custom? According to the Greek Orthodox religion, believers fast for 40 days prior to Christmas Day in order to cleanse their bodies before celebrating the birth of Christ.
- Did you know that Cypriots cut a cake named Vasilopita on New Year’s Day which apparently bring 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 that Cypriots have been doing the door-to-door carol singing since ancient times? Adults and kids gather on Christmas Eve and walk from door-to-door singing Christmas Carols. Before they start, they ask, ‘Na ta poume, na ta poume?’ (should we sing, should we sing?). after they have finished their singing, they are given coins or Christmas treats. Apparently, this tradition originates from Byzantine times or Ancient Greece, when children would walk around singing while carrying small wooden boats to honour the Greek god Dionysos.
- 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.
- Did you know about 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!
- Did you know about 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.
Those spending Christmas in Cyprus will have a blast experiencing all these traditions! Don’t forget to book your Louis Hotel: Louis Phatheon Beach, Louis Ledra Beach, Louis Imperial Beach and the Royal Apollonia!