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 from 5 hours around the island, the bells began to ring triumphantly. The well-dressed parishioners went to church to all the families to listen to the Holy Liturgy about the birth of Jesus Christ. At the end, everyone went out to the courtyard of the church, where they congratulated each other on the holiday, exchanged wishes and invited to try traditional Cypriot sweets, shushukas, raisins, nuts, washed down with wine or zivaniya. The culmination of the festive day was a dinner, where each hostess tried to shine with her culinary skills. Traditionally it started with an avgolemoni soup or a trahana, followed by ravioli with grated cheese, rustic pasta. Then served stuffed poultry: a turkey or chicken and those present at dinner raised the first toast for a good harvest in the new year, for health and freedom. Then the owner of the house cut the Christmas pie in the following way: the first piece to Christ, the second to the house and the beggar of the wand, and only after that he gave a pie to all present with the words of best wishes and hope to meet all together at this table next year.
On Christmas Eve (Christmas Eve), the so-called "Twelve Days" (Christmas Eve) begins, then, according to the popular belief that exists in Cyprus and Greece, there are "Kalikandzari" - demonic creatures, which in every way incite people and their appearance to cause fear and disgust. As a rule, they are one-legged and goat-legged freaks who penetrate the house through a chimney, and any trouble that has occurred during twelve days is written off to these unfortunate people.When they appear before Christmas, they disappear on the day of Agion Epiphanyon or Fota (Baptism, B at the same time as the consecration 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 call Ai Vasilis, is connected with the story that marked the beginning of one New Year's tradition. This happened during the reign of the Roman emperor Julian the Apostate (361 - 363), so nicknamed for departing from the Christian faith. The Emperor made an attempt under the threat of seizing Caesarea and enslaving its inhabitants to receive rich gifts. To this end, Julian sent an armed detachment to the bishop of the city - Basil the Great. The townspeople, who loved their city and their bishop, collected all their jewels and decided to entrust them to the Svyatite, so that he wisely ordered them. When the soldiers of the emperor appeared for redemption, Saint Basil showed them a chest of jewels. But only the military leader approached to take him, as a cloud appeared, from which appeared Saint Mercury accompanied by angels and drove the emperor distraught with fear.
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.
On New Year's Eve the housewives were cleaned in the house (so that the whole year was clean), on the doors and windows hung the branches of the olive tree - the symbol of peace. Even before the evening, they cooked kutya from wheat, decorating it with pomegranate, sesame seeds, special white caramel and peeled almonds. Kutya laid out on a beautiful dish, in the center of which was placed a lighted candle, and next to the table a painted pumpkin vessel with wine and a glass were put on the table. A burning candle was necessary for St. Basil (Ai Vasilis), entering the unlocked door, saw the food prepared for him. There, on the table, there was always a purse full of coins, which, with the prayers of a saint, would not have worn off in the new year. On this night the peasants asked a lot of feed for domestic cattle, so that the animals entered the new year full and with the blessing of Basil remained so throughout the year.
When the whole family was sitting by the burning hearth - and the winters were rainy and cold in the old days, the girls, trying to pass the festive night, threw olive leaves into the fire to learn their destiny with this simple guessing. Making sure that the younger children are fast asleep, the father put small coins into his shoes. A minute before midnight, the host was putting out the light and lighting it again at 12 hours. All began to sing: "The old year is leaving," "Saint Basil is coming from Caesarea" and other traditional songs, exchanged New Year's greetings and wishes. The owner quickly cut Vasilopit into pieces: the first to Christ, the second to the Mother of God, the third to the poor wanderer, then to himself, the hostess and other members of the family according to seniority. He who found the coin was considered lucky, and kept it in his purse for good luck for a year.
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.