Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Easter in Cyprus

Hello again, I hope you all had a happy Easter if you celebrated Easter where you live.  As many of you probably already know I live on the Mediterranean Island of Cyprus.  Cyprus has been in the news quite a lot recently; and for all the wrong reasons.

Easter in Cyprus is not celebrated until 5th May (2013) the reasons why will be explained below.  I would like to share with you an article all about Easter and Easter traditions in Cyprus.

Easter in Cyprus

A Traditional Easter

Aphrodite's Beach - Public domain image from Pixabay.com  

Cyprus is an island in the eastern Mediterranean, famous for it association with Aphrodite, the goddess of love. The picture shown is of Petra Tou Romiou; Aphrodite's Beach in Paphos. The mythical birth place of Aphrodite, the godess of beauty and love.


Cyprus is a very popular tourist destination for Europeans, due to its' long hot summers and many tourist attractions.

The Country and its' people have had a very long and checkered history but one thing that has remained constant their Easter Traditions.


Geographical location of Cyprus



Image By CIA factbook [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Orthodox Easter



Greek Orthodox icon - public domain image from Pixabay.com 


Easter can fall on a different date in Cyprus. This is due to the fact that Cyprus's main religion is Greek Orthodox; 78% of the Cyprus population is Greek Orthodox. The Greek Orthodox church uses the Julian calendar, which Julius Ceasar introduced to replace the Roman Calendar. Western churches use the Gregorian calendar which came into use in 1582, this means that Easter in the eastern and western churches usually coincide only every few years.

Greek Orthodox Easter in Cyprus

Kites - public domain picture from pixabay.com
The start of lent begins with the public holiday celebration of Green Monday or Kathera Thethtera in Greek; meaning "Clean Monday."


On Green Monday no meat or animal products are consumed. Green and other vegetables, fruit, and also barbecued squid or octopus are eaten.

This semi vegan feast is usually eaten outdoors or in open fields, and is accompanied by singing and dancing; how much of this is to do with the wine drunk who knows!
On Green Monday no meat or animal products are consumed. Green and other vegetables, fruit, and also barbecued squid or octopus are eaten.

This semi vegan feast is usually eaten outdoors or in open fields, and is accompanied by singing and dancing; how much of this is to do with the wine drunk who knows!


Green Monday - youtube

Easter Bread
A Village Tradition



Although the many supermarkets in Cyprus have somewhat taken over the production and sale of traditional Easter bread and savouries. There are still some who bake them at home.

 In some Cypriot villages you can still see them using the traditional outdoor ovens called a fournos, they are similar to the Italian pizza ovens. The various kinds of Easter bread are Christosoma; this is bread with a cross incorporated into the design,Tsoureki a bread flavoured with orange and a spice called mahlepi, it has a egg dyed red pressed into the dough before baking.

A popular pastry eaten at Easter is called a flaouna it is made using a special hard cheese which is simply called "flaouna cheese". They are flavoured with mint and raisins and spices. The bread and pastries are made on Holy Thursday, the Thursday of Easter week, usually in large quantities to be served to the whole family.

Flaounas

In Cyprus many years ago any female wishing to make a good match in marriage, would have to possess the ability to make a good fire.

This was before the barbecue became predominately the male domain.

Easter Eggs


Easter eggs - public domain picture from Pixabay.com



Many countries have the tradition of colouring or painting eggs for Easter. In Christianity the egg symbolises the resurrection of Christ. In Cyprus a root called rizari or madder root is used to dye the eggs red. The red of the egg is symbolic of the blood of Christ. The eggs are blessed by the priest at the end of the Holy Saturday vigil mass.

Today there are many different coloured dyes and design kits, to decorate eggs.

The Holy Week


Church - Public domain picture from Pixabay.com


In the week leading up to Easter Sunday many people attend the daily evening church services.

The Holy Friday (Good Friday) service has a large attendance.

A tomb of hundreds of flowers called the Epitaphius is arranged around an icon of the crucified Christ. The Byzantine mass sung called the Epitaphius is very moving.


O Gliki Mou Ear (o my sweet spring) is part of the Epitaphius sung during the Good Friday mass. This arrangement is by the famous Greek composer Vangelis.

Before the end of the service the tomb of flowers is taken from the church followed by a procession of the congregation. One circuit of the village is performed or if the church is in a town the procession to taken onto the street, and then the tomb is brought back to the church. Once outside the church the congregation then pass under the lifted tomb, it is considered a blessing to pass under the Epitaphius. It is then taken into the church for the end of the service.


Easter Saturday


Glowing Church Candles by Petr Kratochvil


Holy Saturday Vigil 

On Holy Saturday the churches perform a midnight vigil mass. Many bring candles that are decorated with easter symbols, easter chicks, rabbits, ribbons and flowers, some look like miniature works of art. When the vigil service reaches the "word of the resurrection" the candles are lit one by one.

The flame for the candles is brought from the Church Of The Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem The priest the proclaims "Christos Anesti", meaning Christ is risen. This greeting is also given to one another during the Easter festivities. After the church service traditionally a soup is eaten, usually avgolemoni meaning egg and lemon soup. It is a soup made with real chicken stock and lemon and eggs are added during cooking.

Easter Sunday
Easter Greeting, Chicks in Egg  
The traditional meal for celebrations is Souvla. Souvla can be any meat that is cooked over a rotating charcoal barbecue, the most common meat used at Easter is lamb. The lamb is cut into large pieces and placed onto large "smileis," stainless steel sticks, they are then place over the Cypriot barbecue called a foukou. The souvla is accompanied by salad, roast potatoes, tzaziki and other dips.

(Imgage from Allposters.com)


The Easter bread and flaounas are also  served. The decorated eggs are used for an egg cracking contest. Each takes an egg and knocks the tops of the eggs together, the winner is the one who's egg is unbroken or the least damaged. Chocolate eggs are also given as gifts.

Happy Easter, Kitten and Chicks

For those of you who celebrate, I would like to wish you a very Happy Easter or as they say in Cyprus "Kalo Pascha."

(Image from Allposters.com)