The year-end season is the most fabulous time of the year and where ever I am, home away from home, I always get excited and have fond memories! Now, it is my 2nd year to celebrate my Christmas and New Year holidays in Cyprus and let me tell you how festive it is!
Greek Orthodox is the main religion in Cyprus and they too celebrate on the 25th of December. As for me being Roman Catholic, and from the East do you know that our Christmas season starts as early as September?!!! Oh, say what?! This year, I put up my Christmas tree on the 1st of November! That’s too early! Err just a little late…. Umm well, you decide!
Some say it’s getting too commercialized these days with all the decorations, marketing, and promotions. I say there is a truth to that yet the festivities make us feel happy amidst the ins and outs of life, remind us to be more humble and to be more giving. There is always a reason to celebrate and be thankful for each year.
So how is the Christmas holiday in Cyprus?
Some shops have decors for sale as early as October! I’m pretty sure it is quite early on this side of the world! Well, you can start thinking of your theme and start shopping a little….yet just a few items since you have to watch out for Christmas fairs or bazaars!
All across the island different Christmas fairs are organized. There is a community of arts and crafts enthusiasts where you can find handmade and unique items. Several fairs are scheduled in Paphos, Limassol, Paralimni, Nicosia, and in other cities.
A lot of shopping is going on in the malls, Makarios Street and my most frequented place in Ledra Street and food shopping as well. Just take note that stores usually closed on Christmas day, 26th December, New Year’s day and some till the 2nd. And one more thing, book your salon appointments ahead of time!
These are holiday parks to visit, see Santa and the elf, amusement rides, fun games, food stalls, caroling; and a lot more! Christmas in town is in downtown Nicosia, which will run till 6th January and there is also the Fairyland amusement park in Strovolos, Nicosia. And all across the island too!
In Greek Orthodox, their Santa is Vasilis not Claus!
Kourabides (top) – My TDF! (To die for). White almond cookies and it is just so addicting. Forget about fattening and whatever calorie count! You don’t want to feel guilty this season!
Melomakarona – Cookies made of olive oil and honey! Again, just delete calories in your vocabulary at this time!
Over the years, I make Christmas fruitcakes, fruits are soaked in brandy for a month. Some of these fruits I got from the sweets festival in Kakopetria village. I bake a few days before Christmas day and it will last for long! But they don’t really stay that long! (If you know what I mean!)
My family’s tradition is cooking on the eve and everyone stays for dinner. There is a wide variety of food supplies available here and with some planning, you can rock your ultimate Christmas dinner.
Last year we had duck, and this year; turkey and gammon. And say if you want an oxtail you can head straight to the butcher shops. For the love of cooking, you can almost find everything here!
Food feeds the soul and brings family and friends together.
On Christmas day, don’t you enjoy the great brunch? it’s the time when the hunger takes over my whole being! When the leftovers are not over yet, you can get creative and turn them into something else! Still more cooking and eating! Yes, Cypriots really love to feed you!
Dinner on the eve and we had another version of the duck. Isn’t it obvious I love ducks!
With the Greek Orthodox tradition, Santa Claus is Saint Vasilis who comes every New year for gift giving. Nowadays, gifts are open on Christmas day.
Another tradition is the Vasilopita pie or cake, with a coin inside. When the clock strikes to New Year it will be sliced. Portions are given first for Christ, for the house, man of the house and so on. And who gets the coin, is the lucky one!
When everyone gets their share of the pie at past 12 midnight; some will start heading home, or watch the fireworks organized by respective municipalities and the young ones go to the club.
Lastly, I also brought my tradition of 13 different round fruits, as a symbol of abundance.
As you can see I celebrate every holiday crisscrossed of different traditions. When I was a child, I look forward to this season as we go to masses (9 days dawn mass; misa de gallo); prepare for great dinner or lunches, gift-giving and so many things to see and do around the city.
Cyprus has a community of several ethnicities and religions as well. The Holy Cross Catholic Church has been very instrumental to the Roman Catholics. The Church calendar has been synced with the Orthodox as to create unity among churches. This also makes it easier for everyone as Church activities and holidays are the same. Hence both Orthodox and Roman Catholics celebrate the same date for Easter Sunday.
Do you still send greeting cards and postcards? Well, I do! I support crafters, and I love to buy handmade cards. Cyprus Post services are fast. I arranged for normal delivery mails and several were received in a week’s time.
Growing up and traveling made me see how other cultures celebrate this season. It has been more a decade experiencing the Greek culture and several things similar to the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians.
Overall I have an amazing time this Christmas and New Years’ holiday here in Cyprus! Don’t forget to gear up with your winter clothes because it is BRRRR very cold! It’s snowing on Trodoos Mountains!
After New Year’s Celebration
And wait! the holidays not over yet! 6th of January is an important celebration of the Orthodox as Christ baptism is celebrated; Theofania. Along the coastal areas, the bishop throws the cross to the sea and anyone can dive for it, whoever gets the cross is lucky and blessed. But here is the catch, are you ready to dive in on winter waters?
Here is further reading on other happenings in Cyprus.
Given all these, would you consider visiting Cyprus on your next Christmas holiday?
With all the festivities and happiness let’s not forget our brothers and sisters who need a helping a hand, our prayers and time. Some may not be able to see the hues and brightness of this season, and yes we can offer something in our hearts and in any we can to spread some love and joy. Thus, let this be an act of gratitude every single day of our lives.
Hope you all had an amazing holiday. What’s your favorite tradition? Or do you have great memories during your childhood days that you love to do it again and again?
Happy New Year! Rock on for a great 2020 everyone!