All social events in Ireland relate in some way or another to a visit to the local pub. Cyprus has more of a food tradition. Celebrating and eating could easily be considered synonyms, since any possible official event would be wasted without everlasting family meals. Today`s question to people in Larnaca: which events are celebrated in Cyprus and how are they different from one another.
Pambos (26) has good memories of the traditional Christmas celebrations from his childhood. `My grandmother used to cook for all of the family on my mother`s side. If you imagine that my mum has twelve siblings, and that all of them also brought their children, you can imagine that we were quite a group around the table.` Soon after talking to Pambos, I learn that many Cypriot families use the entire winter holiday season to socialise and have dinner. There is generally a rotating system, meaning that one person will cook and host for the entire family on one day, while the next person will be responsible for the same ritual on the next days. People who don`t have other obligations will be busy celebrating for a maximum of two weeks long. The same goes for Easter.
Religious celebrations like Christmas and Easter used to be preceded by a period of fastening. Fifty days in case of Christmas, and forty days before Easter, and on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the entire year. Both Christmas and Easter would start off with an extended church visit, and all Friday evenings between Christmas and Easter would be reserved for Mass. In recent years, younger generations have left little of the traditions of sacrifice and Mass attendance.
Evanthia (22, photo) tells me about Green Monday, the day before the Easter fastening. `During that day, families head to the countryside to share a vegetarian picnic. It used to be followed by 40 days of meatless food, but most people choose to keep the nicer part of the celebrations and leave out the downsides. Evanthia herself does go to church a few times during the Christmas and Easter holiday. `But by no means every day, as it is officially prescribed. People from older generations also go to church on Crossing Day and Mary-goes-to-heaven, and possibly even every Sunday morning and Friday afternoon. Younger generations are more selective in their church visits: when friends or relatives get baptised, married or buried.`
Evanthia explains that Christmas is less of a commercial event than it is in many Western European countries. `Few people exchange presents at Christmas. The Christmas shopping period is pretty much restricted to people looking for ingredients for the upcoming meals, not for disposable toys. People give each other presents for birthdays and names days, but even then, it`s not strictly necessary. If people make it to your birthday, it means they love you, so you don`t need the present. Some bring it and some don`t, either way is perfectly acceptable.`
Children may expect presents on New Year`s Day, following a visit of Saint Vasilis. Newly weds can expect financial contributions rather than presents and the same applied to baptised children. Parents, aunts and uncles may also treat members of the younger generation to a financial reward for adding another year to their age. Lucky parents and grand parents get flowers for their Saint`s Day, and couples in love may choose to give each other a small present on Valentine`s Day.
To the beach
National holidays may be less personal, they do entitle people to a day off work. Stavros (21) helps me find the main dates. 20 July is a sad day as marks the invasion of Turkey in Cyprus. The celebrations of Independence Day in Greece (25 March) and Greek National Day (28 October) have been extended to Cyprus as well, and they are also public holidays. All state days are marked by military parades that gather all local army units, students and bands. The parades do attract attention, but many people prefer to use their day off for more productive activities, like going to the beach.
For both Marios (22) and Andri (28), no special day wins against the complete summer. Andri likes to go clubbing and party along with the tourists. Marios is a little more selective. Whenever he feels like a good night our with English people, he goes to Aigia Napa. For local nights out, he goes to adjacent Brodares, which is frequented by local youth rather than temporary immigrants from overseas.
Altogether, it`s easy to list an average Cypriots preferred activities throughout the year. Going to the beach, hanging out with friends, hanging out with family and make it through all the days inbetween without getting overworked.
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