25 December Orthodox Church of Cyprus, as well as the majority of Christian churches in the world, said the bright day of the Nativity. And if you live on an island for Catholics and Maronites - is the main holiday of the year, for the Orthodox inhabitants: Greek Cypriots and Armenians (marking 7 January) - Christmas holiday, no matter how big it is, still dwarfed by the Easter holiday.
Celebrating Christmas in Cyprus has a long and rich tradition, and many customs have survived, having undergone only minor changes. In Orthodoxy, Christmas is preceded by strict 40-day fasting, during which the faithful purified his soul abstinence, prayer and humility. Very many Cypriots still adhere to the customs of their ancestors and do as orders to the Orthodox Church.
In the old days, as well as in our days, the islanders began to prepare for the holiday long before Christmas. In particular this applies not only to the general cleaning of the house, but the whole yard. In each family hostess baked Christmas bread - kulluri. On the eve of stuffed turkey or chicken, made homemade pasta, ravioli, Christmas sweets, among which were a particular favorite melomakarona, kurabedes, dactylo and purekya with cheese or minced meat.
Great importance was attached decorating the Christmas table. From ancient carved chests, where stored dowry fetched bright Samotkal napkins - almost every house had a loom or a sewing machine, a Cypriot reputed skilled needlewomen.
In the district of Paphos has survived a tradition dating back to the times of the Roman Saturnalia. Occasion slaughtered pig meat which was prepared loukanika, lountza, chiromers, zalatinu, for the entire year were reserved melted fat. Celebrate the holidays were taken into a whole new, so tailors worked tirelessly.
In the old days gave gifts on New Year's Day of St. Basil or Baptism. In villages established a long tradition in the Christmas night the front door did not lock, so that when the Virgin Mary with Christ in the form of a beggar or a child will be included in a hospitable house, they found already served the so-called "table of the Virgin."
On Christmas morning with 5 hours across the island began solemnly call bell. Well-dressed parishioners all the families went to church to listen to the Holy Liturgy of the birth of Jesus Christ. Upon graduation all faced the courtyard of the church, where congratulated each other on a holiday, exchanged wishes and serves traditional Cypriot sweets shushukasa, raisins, nuts, drinking wine or all zivania. The culmination of the day was a celebratory lunch where every woman tried to show off their culinary skills. According to tradition he started with soup avgolemono or fuck then walked ravioli with grated cheese, rustic pasta. Then fed stuffed poultry: turkey or chicken for dinner and present first raised a toast to the good harvest in the new year, for health and freedom. Then owner of the house cut a Christmas cake as follows: the first piece - Christ, the second - home and needy stranger, and only then the donee cake with the words, all present best wishes and hope to meet all together at the table next year.
On Christmas Eve (Eve) begins the so-called "Dvenadtsatidneve (Christmas). Then, according to popular belief, the perceptions in Cyprus and Greece, there are "Kalikandzari" - demonic beings, in every way annoying people and their appearance causing fear and loathing. Typically, this legged freaks and goat-footed, which penetrate into the house through the chimney and any trouble that occurred during the twelve days deducted for these unfortunates. Appearing before Christmas, they disappear in the day "Aghion Epifanion" or "Fota" (Epiphany, Epiphany) simultaneously with the blessing of the waters.
It is believed that the word "kalikandzari" comes from the Arabic phrase "rhali al azar", which translates as "unmanaged", "wicked" and "uncivilized." In each country, they are described in different ways: either the skinny black kids with horns, and sometimes with a tail, or hunchbacks and other freaks. But they all share two things in common - a repulsive appearance and malignancy.
In different countries, the role of the characters handing out Christmas gifts, mythical creatures appear. Quite often act in this role and Christian. In Greece and Cyprus - is St. Basil the Great.
Basil was bishop of Caesarea, which is located in Asia Minor. He was famous for his charity work and tireless activity in defense of orthodoxy. Own funds and donations of parishioners of St. built many shelters for the sick and the poor. Basil the Great was the founder of monastic cloisters and author of theological works, many of which have reached our time. He is not only an outstanding theologian, but scientists studying the natural sciences. Orthodox Christians revere his memory 1 January (14 January, new style).
The name of this saint, whom the Greeks called Ai Vasilis, relates the story, marked the beginning of a New Year's tradition. This happened during the reign of the Roman emperor Julian the Apostate (361 - 363 years.), So named because of a departure from the Christian faith. Emperor attempted threatened capture Caesarea and enslavement of its people get rich gifts. To this end, Julian sent an armed group to the bishop of the city - Basil the Great. Citizens who loved their city and its bishop, collected all of their valuables and decided to entrust them to the saint, so he ordered them wisely. When the soldiers of the Emperor came for ransom, St. Basil showed them the treasure chest. But as soon as military commander approached to pick it up, as there was a cloud from which Saint Mercurius appeared accompanied by angels, and drove mad with fear warriors emperor.
Seeing the miracle, and Basil of Caesarea people prostrated themselves and gave thanks to the Lord for help. By order of the bishop prepared with small bread baked in jewels and gave them Christians. The remaining treasures were transferred to the charity. Thus was born the ideas held to this day tradition oven New Year's Eve with the baked pie coin in it. Christmas cake, named after St. Basil the Great - Vasilopita symbolizes the holy bread - the gift of God, and the coin - a sign of fate, human weakness of the unknown future.
New Year's Eve hostess cleaned the house (that was the cleanliness of the whole year), on the doors and windows were hung olive branch - a symbol of peace. Before nightfall kutyu prepared from wheat, decorating her pomegranate seeds, sesame seeds, caramel and special white peeled almonds. Kutyu laid on a beautiful dish in the center of which was placed a lighted candle, and put on the table next to a painted pumpkin vessel and a glass of wine. Burning candle was needed to St. Basil (Ai Vasilis) entered the unlocked door and saw a feast prepared for him. There is always on the table lay a purse full of coins that holy prayers would lack no ointment in the new year. On this night, asked many farmers feed the livestock, the animals entered the new year with the blessing and full Basil remained so throughout the year.
When the whole family was sitting at the burning hearth - and winters in the old days were rainy and cold, girl, trying to pass the festive night, thrown into the fire of olive leaves, with the help of this simple divination to learn his fate. Making sure that the younger kids are fast asleep, his father put him in the shoes of small coins. One minute before midnight host extinguished the light and exactly 12 hours again lit it. All began to sing: "Leaves the old year", "St. Basil is from Caesarea" and other traditional songs, exchanged Christmas greetings and wishes. The owner quickly Vasilopitu cut into pieces: the first - Christ, the second - the Virgin Mary, the third beggar wanderer, then himself, owner and other family members in order of seniority. The finder of the coin was considered lucky, and kept it for a year in my purse for good luck.
In New Year's morning, rising as early as possible, the hostess was on the water, on the way back trying not to miss a word. This so-called "silent" water, washed the whole family, believing that it will go all the troubles and misfortunes. The mother then symbolically gushing all family members olive branches to finally banish evil from the house.
After returning from the church where the congregation listened to the Liturgy of Basil the Great, all geared up for the festive dinner. After him none of the guests did not have to fold your napkin, as there was a sign that then re-invitation to this house will not follow.
On the first day of the New Year, people tried not to quarrel and be kind to each other so that the whole year was just as good and calm.
January 6 (19-th new style) Cyprus Christians celebrate another big holiday - day "Aghion Epifanon" or "Fota". The holiday was established in honor of the Baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River, when the world was the Holy Trinity. This event marked the beginning of the feast of the Epiphany, which is also called the festival of light, as God appeared to enlighten and save the fallen human race.
On the eve of people went to church and bring the water to the consecration. Returning home, they sprinkled it all the rooms, as well as livestock and plants. After the Liturgy, the priest, accompanied by children who performed Christmas carols, walked through the village houses and sanctified them. It was believed that at this moment go kalikandzari.
In coastal cities into the water throwing a cross, and many young people jumped into the cold water to get it. In some areas of Cyprus residents carried sprinkle holy water on their stuff, so that the year happy.
Leaving this morning church parishioners, except holy water, and take home the sacred fire lit by the lamps of the icon of the Virgin. From the same oil lamps took soot, which girls and young women tinted eyes, as believed that it saves from eye diseases and, of course, makes your eyes more beautiful.
Special joy in this day experienced small children, received numerous gifts and money from grandparents, grandparents, godparents, numerous relatives and acquaintances who came that day to visit. When meeting Cypriots said to each other: "Let the whole day will be good!" ("Kalimera Oli mayor!").
Traditionally grilled hostess in boiling oil special donuts - Loukoumades, and after the holiday feast and throwing pieces loukanika Loukoumades on the roof, trying to appease kalikandzarov them to leave full and happy.
So ended a multi-day celebration that next year all over again repeated, as Christmas, New Year and Epiphany remained a favorite holiday of kids and adults.
Many of these traditions are alive and now meet them often can be in the countryside.