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Christmas in Cyprus
This Christmas is going to be our first Christmas here in Cyprus. It's very unusual and strange to celebrate Christmas in a place where you don't have snow and cold weather. Where people decorate palm trees and orange trees with Christmas light. I would like to show you how Cypriot people celebrate Christmas here. So lets get started!
Christmas has started as early as October here. I was walking around in slippers and summer clothes when I heard the well-known Christmas music from Wham in the shopping center's loudspeaker. It was really surreal. In December the weather is still nice, Sometimes it can be 20 degrees warm so you can still sunbathe in the sun although the sea it's too cold to swim in it.
So how do people celebrate Christmas in Cyprus?
Cypriot Christmas is a big family event which lasts at least 12 days. Cypriot families stick together anyway and it's really important to visit each other frequently. During the 12 days of Christmas they have fire in the fireplace which helps them to chase away the bad spirits such as kallikantzaroi. These little Goblin-like creatures can mess up families' lives so you have to protect yourself against them. That's why Cypriot families hang up crosses wrapped in basil and sprinkled with holy water on the front door of a house to ward them off.
Cypriot families have big parties during Christmas time. They sing and dance, just enjoy themselves. Most of them have artificial Christmas trees which can be pink, purple or white which is not particularly my taste.
On the 24th of December children go house by house and sing Christmas carols - so called kalanda - when they do a good job they get small gifts like sweets or dried fruits. The Cypriot Santa Claus (Ayios Vasilis) arrives on the 1st of January when he brings his gifts too. The day before the kids leave some vasilopita cake and some wine for him (forget the cookie and the milk). On the 1st of January families get together and cut up the vasilopita cake which hides a coin. Whoever finds the coin will be very lucky in the New Year. The Cypriot Christmas ends at Epiphany.
Food plays an important part in Cypriot Christmas
As many other countries Christmas food plays an important role. You can definitely treat your treat buds here and please don't go on diet until the 6th of January when you visit Cyprus. The most important Christmas meals are the following:
- stuffed turkey is really popular
- roast lamb and chicken: these're traditionally served on Christmas day across Cyprus
- kotopoulo me bizeli: chicken and pork with beans is also really traditional food
There's also something for you if you have a sweet tooth. Cypriot sweets and cakes are really tasty and not healthy at all but who cares when it's Christmas. 'Kourabiedes' is a delicious small almond cake coated in icing sugar. I also like melomakarona’ which is a traditional honey cake (and very yummy - I love Cypriot honey). 'Finika' is also delicious, it's a kind of walnut pie. I almost forget about Christopsomo (Christ Bread) which is normally accompanied by dried figs, nuts and honey and are eaten on Christmas Eve across Cyprus.
We shouldn't forget about pomegranates at this time of the year because they are very popular during Christmas in Cyprus and they are not only used for decoration: they also symbolize fertility as well as wealth and happiness.
After 40 days of fast people really appreciate good Christmas food. Christmas time is the busiest for Cypriot housewives who prepare all these delicious meals. Believe me they aren't bored in the kitchen at all.
So these are the most important Cypriot Christmas traditions. It's a truly unique place to celebrate it. We'll definitely go to the beach when the rain clouds are gone and enjoy the sunshine.
Kala Christougenna to you! Have a Merry Christmas!