Thursday, April 17, 2014


Χριστός Ανέστη!  Αληθώς Ανέστη!  Καλό Πάσχα!  These Greek phrases translate to Christ is Risen (Xristos Anesti), Christ is Risen Indeed (Alithos Anesti), and Happy Easter (Kalo Pascha). 

Since Cyprus is predominately a Greek Orthodox society, the culture tends to represent the Greek Orthodox traditions.  Easter (or Pascha in Greek) is the most important religious holiday for the Greek Orthodox church, and the Easter festivities actually extend over a few months, starting with Green Monday.

During the Easter season, there are various Easter decorations scattered throughout Cypriot villages, but there are major decorations in the cities, particularly the city of Limassol.

The Greek Orthodox Lent begins on Green Monday and continues for seven weeks until Easter Sunday.  The Greek Orthodox Lent is primarily a time of fasting, in which the main reasons are to cleanse the body and the spirit in preparation for Easter Sunday.

This Greek Orthodox fast indicates refraining from eating the following foods: meat, poultry, some fish and seafood, dairy products, eggs, olive oil, and alcohol.  Theses foods are placed into categories, so some foods within a particular category are allowed throughout fasting on specific days, as well as the quantity of meals are restricted throughout Lent.

However, the fasting food restrictions aren't followed on various holidays, including Annunciation Day and Palm Sunday, as well as the fasting restrictions are lessened on the weekends.

The Greek Orthodox Holy Week starts on the Monday after Palm Sunday, and each day has a particular theme with rituals.  During Holy Week, usually on Holy Thursday, eggs are dyed a deep red to represent the blood of Christ.  Then, on Easter Sunday, the red eggs are cracked against each other to symbolize Christ breaking from the tomb.  

Good Friday is more of a mournful day, since it commemorates the day that Christ died on the cross.  Greek Orthodox churches have special prayer services on Good Friday, and this day is honored as a public holiday in Cyprus.

On Saturday evening, the Greek Orthodox churches host an open air Resurrection Mass in every church's courtyard that's late in the evening.  During this time, one of the Greek Orthodox traditions is to burn a representation (also referred to as an effigy) of Judas--the disciple who betrayed Jesus--in a bonfire.

At midnight, the Greek Orthodox church bells ring and set off plenty of fireworks to announce that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. 

Candles are also lit during this time.  After returning home from the Greek Orthodox services, if their candles are still lit, then it's a Greek Orthodox tradition to mark a cross on the door with the candles' soot, which serves as a mark of protection for the coming year.

Once the Greek Orthodox service ends (and the church bells and fireworks eventually stop), the midnight celebrations continue with a large feast at the Resurrection Table with family and friends.  Since the Greek Orthodox fast is over, some of the traditional feasting items include lamb, pork, wine, tsoureki, flaounes, and various other Cypriot dishes.

Tsoureki is traditional Greek-Cypriot sweet bread that is formed by braiding or twisting strands of dough.  Another tradition is to place red-dyed, hard-boiled eggs into the top of the bread.  In the Greek Orthodox culture, these eggs are dyed deep red to symbolize the blood of Christ, while the bread symbolizes the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Flaounes are another traditional Cypriot Easter treat, which consists of a special cheese bread.  Actually, it's a baked bread dough filled with a cheese mixture, such as halloumi, anari, etc.

Even though tsoureki and flaounes are available in local Cypriot bakeries throughout the Easter season, they are both traditionally baked on Good Friday and then served on Easter Sunday, once the Greek Orthodox Lenten fast is over.

After a night of feasting and celebrating, the celebrations still continue throughout the day on Sunday with church services and another feast.  The Easter Sunday meal is another feast with lamb, seafood, salads, vegetable dishes, breads, cakes, wines, etc.

And the celebration even continues on Easter Monday and Easter Tuesday, which are both public holidays in Cyprus.  However, it's more of a relaxed celebration on these days.

Easter commemorates and celebrates the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Praise the Lord that Jesus has risen.  He has risen indeed. 

This year, the Greek Orthodox Easter holidays, which are public holidays in Cyprus, include Good Friday on April 18, Easter Sunday on April 20, Easter Monday on April 21, and Easter Tuesday on April 22.

To view a list of the 2014 public holidays in Cyprus, please click HERE As the year progresses, plan to visit this blog to view updates and descriptions of the various Cypriot holidays.

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