As an island with a rich and diverse history, it’s no surprise that Cyprus has many traditions. Locals embrace these traditions, bringing unique events and culinary delights to the next generations, so they are never forgotten. Easter is celebrated in Cyprus with a great ceremony. It’s such a joyful time of year and is actually the largest festival in the Greek Orthodox calendar. If you visit Cyprus during Easter, you’re sure of a warm welcome and a whole lot of fun! Here are just some of the wonderful Cypriot Easter traditions…
Flaounes – Easter cheese pastries
Most festivities in Cyprus involve delicious food, and Easter is no exception. One unique delicacy that you really must try are flaounes, the most delightful cheese-filled pastries. Cheese is combined with the Greek spice mahlepi, and encased in dried mint pastry which is covered with sesame seeds. There are both salty and sweet versions of this tasty treat, with the sweet version also containing sultanas. They’re a traditional family home bake at Easter, but don’t worry if you’re only visiting, you’ll find flaounes available from most bakeries over the festive period.
Good Saturday becomes rather magical as the sun sets in Cyprus, as many bonfires are lit, symbolising the punishment of Judas for betraying Jesus. Some of these bonfires have been weeks in the building and so are pretty impressive to see ablaze. It’s a great time to take a drive around the island.
Epitaphios is the first of the two major Easter church services and is held on Good Friday night. On the morning of Good Friday, girls from the local village decorate the epitaphio with flowers, a representation of the tomb of Christ. This impressive floral arrangement is present in the church during the service, after which it is carried out and paraded through the streets, followed by a congregation, mourning for Christ.
Red eggs and egg cracking
You can still enjoy chocolate eggs at Easter in Cyprus, but there’s another egg tradition here too. Hard-boiled eggs are dyed red, to represent the blood of Christ. When the eggs are cracked, this is symbolic of the opening of the tomb of Jesus.
For a truly mystical experience, join the crowds at the churches at around 11pm on Good Saturday, for Midnight Mass. It’s a real spectacle when at midnight all the lights are extinguished and the churches are plunged into darkness. Then the priest lights a candle, creating one small glow in the darkness. From this, the candles of all the congregation are lit, until the church is beautifully lit up with candlelight. The service continues until 3am, but don’t worry if this is a little late for you as many people leave around 12.30am.
Easter Sunday Lunch
Easter Sunday is a time for feasting. Lamb is a traditional Easter treat, often spit roasted in the garden. There’s a wonderful celebratory feel in the air, as friends and families gather together to play games and feast together.
If you ever find yourself in Cyprus over Easter, you should definitely make the most of it and enjoy some of these ancient traditions. Perhaps you may even wish to plan your visit to coincide with this festive season?
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Cyprus Health Services Promotion Board
38, Grivas Dhigenis,& 3, Deligiorgis str.
1509 Nicosia, Cyprus
Tel: +357 22 88 98 90
Fax:+357 22 66 75 93