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   Easter is the greatest holiday
    in the Orthodox Church. It is
    fixed according to the moon
    - that is to say, it is always
    celebrated on the first
    Sunday following the full
    moon of the spring equinox.
   To       celebrate       Easter
    everything should look clean
    and new, so houses are
    cleaned, painted or white-
    washed, and new clothes
    are a "must", especially new
    shoes.
   Holy Week is dedicated to
    church-going and to baking,
    etc.
   The period of fasting before Easter
    is called 'Apokria' and starts during
    the month of February at Carnival-
    time which is the traditional period
    of fasting before Pascha (Easter).
   The first week of 'Apokria' is called
    Meat Week (Kreatini) and this is the
    last week you can eat meat.
   The second week is cheese week
    (Tyrini) and also the last week to
    eat cheese and other dairy
    products before Easter.
   This is the time of Lent and on
    Green Monday the fasting officially
    begins and lasts for 40 days. This
    day is a public holiday in Cyprus
    and people traditionally go on
    picnics and fly kites.
   All this period called “Sarakosti”
   The preparations for Palm
    Sunday can be seen from the
    previous Friday. The people at
    villages plait intricate
    "vaynes" ~ palm-leaf flower
    holders ~ which when
    finished, resemble little
    swallows' nests perched on
    sticks.
   The young children fill them
    with flowers and take them to
    church on Palm Sunday when
    they follow the icon of Christ
    around the church in a
    procession commemorating
    Christ's entry into Jerusalem.
    The older boys hold large
    palm leaves.
 Olive leaves are put
  into pillow-case-like
  sacks which are taken
  to church; there they
  are kept for forty days
  after which they can
  be used for incense
  burning.
 From now on there are
  church services
  morning, afternoon
  and evening.
   Holy Week is the peak of
    these activities. On
    Thursday most women do
    their Easter baking of
    "flaounes", a kind of cheese
    cake found in
    Cyprus, made of shortcrust
    with a cheese, egg and
    mint filling, formed into
    triangular and square
    shapes.
   "Koulouria" are baked with
    milk, spices and a little
    sugar and "Tyropittes" ~
    loaves with small pieces of
    cheese added and rolled
    in sesame seeds.
   Eggs are dyed as well.
    Traditionally they are dyed
    red with a special root
    called "rizari", that is sold in
    bundles at the market
    during these days. They are
    also dyed yellow; for this
    purpose the yellow
    marguerites that cover the
    waysides and fields during
    April are used.
   However, in the towns you
    can buy small packets of
    different colored dyes from
    your grocer. Some dye
    their eggs in a more artistic
    way by tying the
    marguerites onto the eggs
    with a piece of
    muslin before boiling them
    in a color. The end product
    is most effective.
   Holly Thursday
commemorates
the Last Supper
of Jesus Christ with
the Apostles.
 It is the fifth day of
Holy Week, and is
    followed by
Good Friday
   Good Friday begins with
    everyone taking flowers to
    church so that the young girls
    can decorate the "Epitafios" ~
    Holy Sepulchre. This, in our
    church, is a four-postured litter
    with a canopy in which the
    icon of Christ is laid in state. The
    whole structure is completely
    decorated with flowers, a job
    that takes the greater part of
    Good Friday morning.
   At lunchtime the traditional
    "Faki Xidati" - vinegar and lentil
    soup - is eaten, containing
    vinegar because it is said that
    when Christ asked for water on
    his way to Calgary He was
    given vinegar instead.
 From early afternoon you will
  see streams of cars and
  pedestrians going from church
  to church to pay their last
  respects to Christ - and to
  compare the decoration of
  their own parish "Epitafios" with
  that of the others.
 In the meantime, all the streets
  along which the "Epitafios" will
  pass in the solemn procession
  later that night are being
  decorated with colored lights.
  The procession starts after the
  evening service with the
  priests preceding, then the
  Scouts or young men carrying
  the litter of Christ and then the
  choir, singing hymns. The
  whole congregation
  follows, and children light
  sparklers on the way. Fireworks
  are lit from the balconies while
  the procession moves around
  its parish boundaries and
  ends up at the church again.
 Saturday is a quiet day, although
  there is a sermon towards
  lunchtime during which the
  church doors are banged and
  candleholders shaken, when the
  news is brought that Christ is no
  longer in His grave.
 The real sermon of resurrection is
  at about midnight. Everybody
  goes to church with a candle
  and the sermon is held to the
  accompaniment of fire-crackers.
 A big bonfire is lit in the church
  yard. When the priest proclaims
  that "Christ has risen", all candles
  are lit and everyone greets
  everyone else with "Christos
  anesti" ~Christ has risen, to which
  the other answers "Alithos
  anesti" ~ Indeed He has risen.
   On Sunday morning most
    people who have not taken
    Holy Communion during the
    Holy Week take it now and
    afterwards they go home,
    where red eggs are
    cracked, flaounes eaten and
    the fast broken.
   The children go around
    cracking and winning colored
    eggs, for if your egg cracks
    then you lose it and the child
    with the unbroken
    egg gets it.
   At lunchtime picnics and family
    gatherings are held
    everywhere; lamps are roasted
    on the spit and wine flows
    freely.
   In the villages, Easter is an
    all-village affair apart from
    being a big holiday. On
    such days after Mass, the
    priest stands at the church
    door with the Cross and
    everyone leaving kisses the
    Cross, then shakes-and
    takes - the hand of the
    person in front, thus forming
    a large circle in the church
    yard which symbolizes the
    renewal of friendship with
    one another.
   After this, all friends and
    relations, but especially
    people from other towns or
    villages, are invited to the
    villagers' homes where they
    sit down together, eating
    and drinking until late in the
    afternoon.
 In many villages it is also the
  custom on Easter Sunday and
  Monday for everyone to have
  lunch in the church yard and
  each family brings its food and
  wine and everybody eats at
  long tables made out of stands
  and long wooden planks.
 After lunch there are various
  games, dances and jokes. So
  all old quarrels are forgotten.
  The young people celebrate by
  hanging up "souses" - swings.
  For this purpose young men
  and girls hang ropes from trees
  and while the girls swing, they
  all sing love songs, or teasing
  songs called "Tchatismata" -
  rhymes –
Easter Traditions in Cyprus

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Easter Traditions in Cyprus

  • 1.
  • 2. Easter is the greatest holiday in the Orthodox Church. It is fixed according to the moon - that is to say, it is always celebrated on the first Sunday following the full moon of the spring equinox.  To celebrate Easter everything should look clean and new, so houses are cleaned, painted or white- washed, and new clothes are a "must", especially new shoes.  Holy Week is dedicated to church-going and to baking, etc.
  • 3. The period of fasting before Easter is called 'Apokria' and starts during the month of February at Carnival- time which is the traditional period of fasting before Pascha (Easter).  The first week of 'Apokria' is called Meat Week (Kreatini) and this is the last week you can eat meat.  The second week is cheese week (Tyrini) and also the last week to eat cheese and other dairy products before Easter.  This is the time of Lent and on Green Monday the fasting officially begins and lasts for 40 days. This day is a public holiday in Cyprus and people traditionally go on picnics and fly kites.  All this period called “Sarakosti”
  • 4. The preparations for Palm Sunday can be seen from the previous Friday. The people at villages plait intricate "vaynes" ~ palm-leaf flower holders ~ which when finished, resemble little swallows' nests perched on sticks.  The young children fill them with flowers and take them to church on Palm Sunday when they follow the icon of Christ around the church in a procession commemorating Christ's entry into Jerusalem. The older boys hold large palm leaves.
  • 5.  Olive leaves are put into pillow-case-like sacks which are taken to church; there they are kept for forty days after which they can be used for incense burning.  From now on there are church services morning, afternoon and evening.
  • 6. Holy Week is the peak of these activities. On Thursday most women do their Easter baking of "flaounes", a kind of cheese cake found in Cyprus, made of shortcrust with a cheese, egg and mint filling, formed into triangular and square shapes.  "Koulouria" are baked with milk, spices and a little sugar and "Tyropittes" ~ loaves with small pieces of cheese added and rolled in sesame seeds.
  • 7. Eggs are dyed as well. Traditionally they are dyed red with a special root called "rizari", that is sold in bundles at the market during these days. They are also dyed yellow; for this purpose the yellow marguerites that cover the waysides and fields during April are used.  However, in the towns you can buy small packets of different colored dyes from your grocer. Some dye their eggs in a more artistic way by tying the marguerites onto the eggs with a piece of muslin before boiling them in a color. The end product is most effective.
  • 8. Holly Thursday commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles. It is the fifth day of Holy Week, and is followed by Good Friday
  • 9. Good Friday begins with everyone taking flowers to church so that the young girls can decorate the "Epitafios" ~ Holy Sepulchre. This, in our church, is a four-postured litter with a canopy in which the icon of Christ is laid in state. The whole structure is completely decorated with flowers, a job that takes the greater part of Good Friday morning.  At lunchtime the traditional "Faki Xidati" - vinegar and lentil soup - is eaten, containing vinegar because it is said that when Christ asked for water on his way to Calgary He was given vinegar instead.
  • 10.  From early afternoon you will see streams of cars and pedestrians going from church to church to pay their last respects to Christ - and to compare the decoration of their own parish "Epitafios" with that of the others.  In the meantime, all the streets along which the "Epitafios" will pass in the solemn procession later that night are being decorated with colored lights. The procession starts after the evening service with the priests preceding, then the Scouts or young men carrying the litter of Christ and then the choir, singing hymns. The whole congregation follows, and children light sparklers on the way. Fireworks are lit from the balconies while the procession moves around its parish boundaries and ends up at the church again.
  • 11.  Saturday is a quiet day, although there is a sermon towards lunchtime during which the church doors are banged and candleholders shaken, when the news is brought that Christ is no longer in His grave.  The real sermon of resurrection is at about midnight. Everybody goes to church with a candle and the sermon is held to the accompaniment of fire-crackers.  A big bonfire is lit in the church yard. When the priest proclaims that "Christ has risen", all candles are lit and everyone greets everyone else with "Christos anesti" ~Christ has risen, to which the other answers "Alithos anesti" ~ Indeed He has risen.
  • 12. On Sunday morning most people who have not taken Holy Communion during the Holy Week take it now and afterwards they go home, where red eggs are cracked, flaounes eaten and the fast broken.  The children go around cracking and winning colored eggs, for if your egg cracks then you lose it and the child with the unbroken egg gets it.  At lunchtime picnics and family gatherings are held everywhere; lamps are roasted on the spit and wine flows freely.
  • 13. In the villages, Easter is an all-village affair apart from being a big holiday. On such days after Mass, the priest stands at the church door with the Cross and everyone leaving kisses the Cross, then shakes-and takes - the hand of the person in front, thus forming a large circle in the church yard which symbolizes the renewal of friendship with one another.  After this, all friends and relations, but especially people from other towns or villages, are invited to the villagers' homes where they sit down together, eating and drinking until late in the afternoon.
  • 14.  In many villages it is also the custom on Easter Sunday and Monday for everyone to have lunch in the church yard and each family brings its food and wine and everybody eats at long tables made out of stands and long wooden planks.  After lunch there are various games, dances and jokes. So all old quarrels are forgotten. The young people celebrate by hanging up "souses" - swings. For this purpose young men and girls hang ropes from trees and while the girls swing, they all sing love songs, or teasing songs called "Tchatismata" - rhymes –