Christmas in Free Cyprus is the most important holiday in the whole year, as Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Christmas in Cyprus is a time for family, traditions and renew memories. For children Christmas means presents, snow, and holidays with schools being closed for two weeks.
In Cyprus every year in winter, we look forward to the first snow and to seeing the mountaintops covered in white. Making snowmen and throwing snowballs at each other, even as adults, we become children again.
Young visitors knock on our door singing carols while tapping on the traditional musical triangle. Some of the children are dressed as Santa Claus, others as reindeers and others as little elves. They ask: "Would you like us to sing?" We reward them with chocolates or a little money.
Children eagerly wait for Christmas so that they can open their presents under the decorated tree. This moment brings the most beautiful feeling and leaves wonderful memories whilst awakening childhood memories of adults. The children wait eagerly for Santa Claus to come to our house to place presents beneath the tree but in the end they all get tired and fall asleep. Then the parents get up, and become secret Santa Clauses having fun in their own way.
Then in the morning the children see their dreams come true when they find not only the presents they had ordered from Santa Claus but also huge Christmas stockings full of chocolates and candies, hung at various points in the house.
Christmas Day is a holiday. Early in the morning people go to church to attend the Divine Liturgy of Christmas and have communion after having fasted for forty days, beginning on the 15th of November, the day after we celebrate St Philip, the Apostle.
On Christmas Day according to the Greek / Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar, several Greek names are celebrated: Christina and Christos, Emanuela and Emmanuel, Chrysavgi, Chrysa and Chrystalla (Stalo)
At the end of November or beginning of December we decorate the house. The children start off with the Christmas tree, getting into the spirit of things. It makes us adults smile to see only the lower part of the tree decorated – just as high as the children could reach.
We fill our dining table with bowls decorated with different Christmas ornaments such as colourful balls, stars, pine cones and red candles. Shortly before Christmas the table is piled high with delicacies such as homemade biscuits, gingerbread house, buns and of course the famous melomakarona and the tasty Christmas cake!
We usually put on a few pounds not only from what we eat at home, but what we eat at the friends we visit. You never leave from a Cypriot house without being treated to a delicacy such as ‘melomakarono’ especially when it is made by the lady of the house!
And it is not just sweetmeats that we keep eating. At Christmas our finest tableware comes out and our table is laden with all manner of fine food, with stuffed Christmas Turkey or succulent roast pork. We love inviting our friends and family round. It is a great time for family reunions.
You never go to someone’s house for a meal empty-handed. A bottle of wine or a Christmas plant is offered. The florists all have the famous red Poinsettia with beautiful ribbons ready to brighten every home.
When there is a large family gathering one member of the family, preferably with a big belly represents Santa Claus, surprising the children with his visit and giving them all small presents again. He thanks them for their good wishes and for the letters he received and advises them to be good in the coming New Year'
To our relatives abroad we send Christmas greetings cards.
To a greater or lesser extent this is how Cypriots enjoy their Christmas. Merry Christmas to you all!
Christmas in Cyprus, what's different?