With the lovely Christmas holidays approaching let's switch from the serious immigration, investments, finance and real estate matters to a more joyful subject and see how we celebrate Xmas and New Year in Cyprus.
There are many unique traditions in Cyprus during the Christmas season, making the holidays a pretty mixture of religious, social, superstitious, British, European, Cypriot and whatnot heritage.
Cyprus celebrates Christmas on the 25th of December along with the Catholic world even though the local church is Orthodox Christian. Christmas begins with fairs, parades and processions, and kids singing Christmas carols door-to-door. What is the most interesting is that these carols are not your typical modern carols, but songs from the Byzantine period. These beautiful melodies, called "kalanda", have been handed down for generations and are sung each year on Christmas.
Christmas Day is celebrated as a family gathering. Santa Clause does not exist in Cyprus, and there are few presents exchanged on this day. Most Cypriots go to church on Christmas Eve and then have a traditional soup to gently switch from the lent to the festive abundance. They spend the Christmas day and evening feasting with their family and friends.
Each 1 January marks not only the New Year; it is also the Feast of St. Basil (Ayios Vasilis) , the patron saint of Cyprus, the "bringer of gifts", much like Santa Clause. Presents are brought on New Year's Eve night and everyone exchanges gifts on New Year's morning. Another unique tradition is making "vasilopita" – "the pie of Ayios Vasilis", a sweet orange flavoured pie with one coin mixed in the dough - and cutting it sharing the pieces between the family members or friends on the 1st of January. The one who gets the piece with the coin inside will have luck and prosperity in the new year.
While other cultures have Christmas elves, the Cypriot equivalent is not so cute and cheerful. Evil spirits called "Kalikantzari", according to myth, come to earth and cause mischief and small havoc during the twelve days of Christmas, from Christmas Eve to Epiphany Day, on January, 6th. They are believed to stay on roofs during these 12 days so people do their best to protect their homes by putting a cross over the door, burning fire in the chimney continuously to prevent them from coming down the chimney, and throwing food on the roof to please them.
Celebrations continue through until 6 January, called the Epiphany. On January the 5th, a very traditional event takes place in the seaside towns. A priest throws a golden cross into the sea and strong young men swim out and try to find the cross. The person who finds the cross and returns it to the priest is said to have good fortune for the next year.