in Cyprus

In many countries such as England, Christianity is largely (but not entirely) a matter of historical interest, landmarked by empty medieval churches and the occasional march through areas of mainly Moslem immigrant population. On these young people hold up a cross, shouting out that they are Christian and that England is a Christian country.

By contrast, in Cyprus and all Greek places, Christianity is a living tradition of uninterrupted religious practice for some 2000 years. The churches are full, not because people are threatened with hell-fire for not attending, but because they want to go and attend the liturgies. Something draws them there.

Baptism in Cyprus is a serious occasion when a new baby is welcomed into the Christian fold. It is a joyful occasion celebrated both with ceremonial and with feasting. The tradition requires not just the pouring of a few drops of water on the baby, but full immersion as taught by John the Baptist.

Coastal areas in Cyprus are lined with little chapels, too small to hold normal Sunday Liturgies. However, they are the location of choice of many a baptism and wedding. The little chapel of Ayios Nicolaos next to the Golden Coast Hotel is no exception.

The doors are usually open and visitors can come and view the beautiful Byzantine art that decorates all Orthodox churches, and the faithful can pause their busy lives and venerate the saints and whisper a quiet prayer.

However, on special days we may see a Baptism taking place there. Friends and relations will gather. Photos for the family album will be taken. Eventually the Priest will commence the prayers and incantations while the Godfather, or Godmother, holds the baby to be baptised. Parents will look on lovingly while little children, decked out in their Sunday finest will view the proceedings with a certain amount of inquisitiveness. The occasional curious tourist will discreetly peak through the door and take a snapshot or two.

In Cyprus, as in most Mediterranean countries Family religious celebrations are accompanied by eating and next to Ayios Nikolaos, only a few metres away, the Golden Coast Hotel offers private dining areas specially for such occasions. And the celebration continues with the feasting.