Easter is a movable celebration and it's the Greatest Holiday of the Orthodox Church. It is always celebrated on the first Sunday following the first Full Moon occurring on or after the Spring equinox. Holy Week is dedicated to Church-going and to baking.
So if you are visiting Cyprus at that time don't worry if you do not see a lot of people out on the streets, especially in the evenings. We have not been abducted by aliens (loud laughter); most probably you will find us near a Church!
If you have friends here and they are very religious you are going to have a week of fasting. Fasting actually is recommended for 50 days but our generation only seems to be able to handle it during Holy Week. We call it "Sarakosti" (lent) and Christians are not supposed to eat meat, dairy products or oil, so if your friend's mother is fasting you’ll find yourself fasting too! She is cooking, her rules (laughter).
On Holy Thursday “Flaounes” are baked (yum-yum). Flaounes are made of short crust with cheese, egg, raisings and mint filling. All the family will gather together from early in the morning and will help bake them. Not as easy as it sounds and there will be a lot of "screaming" from the old to young ones because they know how to do it better! Also in the same day we dye eggs to symbolise Christ's Blood from the Cross, but be careful that dye does not come off clothes easily.
The crucifixion of Christ is on that day so people go to church in the evening to "mourn". The Church's icons are covered with black veils to show their grief.
"Epitafios" is on Holy Friday. Everyone takes flowers to the church and they decorate the Epitafios or Holy Sepulcure. The procession starts after the evening service. Young men carry the "Epitafios" outside the Church around the neighbourhood and back to the church, people follow the "Epitafios" the whole time. Through the whole process you are going to have a bone-chilling feeling.
On Holy Saturday morning, people go to church and as soon as it is announced by the priest that Christ is no longer in his grave, the church doors and seats are banged by the people and all the black veils that cover the Icons drop. Prepare for some serious goosebumps.
The real ceremony of the resurrection happens at midnight. Everybody goes to church and celebrates the resurrection of Christ. PS: if you want to skip this part and prefer to go down Town to a cafe or restaurant just don't bother, nothing is open between 9pm-1am. During the midnight service, candles are lit by the Holy Light (brought straight from Jerusalem) and many people take home their candle from the Holy Light to their houses for blessing. On this night we have a great tradition, especially for small children (big ones too), called "Lambratzia". An effigy of Judas, the traitor, is burned in the church yard (overseen by police). Kids collect wood for weeks to set up an enormous burning spot for Judas, be careful though. Don't get very close because there is a custom of throwing fireworks into the fire.
After the midnight service the whole family gathers together for a feast. People eat a special kind of soup called "Avgolemono". They also crack the hard-boiled, dyed, eggs and say "Christos Anesti" which means “Christ has risen from the dead,” and the response is "Alithos Anesti" which means indeed He has risen.
Holy Sunday or “Pascha”! On this day prepare to eat, eat and eat again! This day is all about family and friends gathered all together for a big feast with lots of dyed eggs, flaounes, roast lamb and lots of wine and other alcoholic drinks. Traditional songs are included. This feast is LOUD and NOISY - so be ready!
Finally, Easter Monday is all about traditional games especially on villages and small communities.
So HAPPY EASTER everyone or as we say in Cyprus "KALO PASCHA"