With a history of more than 10,000 years it is no surprise Cyprus is steeped in tradition, culture and heritage. Learning more about a country's tradition is like opening a door to a new world, you understand the people a little more and you get a feeling of what is like being a local. Going through Cyprus traditions will leave you wishing you were born there, back to the days were each and every one of these traditions was alive.
Centuries ago a wedding in Cyprus meant a week-long celebration for the whole village, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Cypriots used to lack the luxury of marrying out of love, the daughters of a family would be married to a groom chosen by a "deal" between the fathers or through a "matchmaker" or like Cypriots call her, the "proxenitra". The matchmaker was the one responsible for telling the bride's family that a groom has asked for their daughter's hands in marriage. It was up to her father to accept or decline the proposal. The groom was chosen based by power, influence, status and of course, money. Upon accepting the proposal, the two families met to agree on a marriage contract that was to be followed exactly as stated. The contract was signed by the families in front of the priest of the Village and was considered a legal document. A marriage contract - "proikosimfono" in Greek -, played a major part in a wedding and in many cases, could end one before even it began due to disagreements between the families. Once everything was agreed a date was set and the preparations began. The tailor of the village would sew a wedding dress for the bride and the mother of the bride would go to the streets giving church candles to the people inviting them to the wedding. The whole village was invited and expected at the wedding, dressed in their best and brining gifts and wishes for the couple. Those traditions are now a thing of the past and the majority of people marry out of love. While in villages some of these traditions may still apply in the big cities they don't. The couple invites their closest friends and family to their wedding, which is only celebrated for a day. At the day of the wedding the groom and the bride are getting ready each at their house, with the help of the best man and the maid of honor, respectively. Friends and family gather at their houses to share the couple's happiest day. The preparations are accompanied by a violin and a lute played by hired musicians. During that time the parents, grandparents and siblings of the groom/bride will tie and untie a red piece of fabric around their waist as a sign of fetility, this is called the "Zosma". The musicians first attend the groom's preparation and then the bride's so that to follow her to the church, where the groom is already standing outside the church waiting for his bride. One more wedding tradition that is lost nowadays concerns the day after the wedding where the couple would hang the white bedsheet on their balcony, stained with blood, signaling that his bride was indeed a virgin.
Funerals in Cyprus are considered a day of mooring, where friends and family gather to say goodbye to the deceased first at the church and then at his house. During funerals people dress up in all black and the closest relatives of the deceased continue to wear all black for the next forty days as a sign of mooring. Furthermore, 40 days after the funeral as well as every year on his Memorial Day the relatives go to the church, after the service they distribute koliva to the people there in return for their prayers regarding the deceased. Afterwards the relatives visit his grave and then gather at a house for a coffee in his memory.
Most Cypriots are very religious people and therefore Easter is taken seriously by them. Except of a 50- day period of fasting, they go to the Church twice a day during the Holy week and on Sunday night after they receive the Holy light and the mass finishes they go home and have a soup and crack eggs with each other. The eggs are painted red to represent the blood of Jesus, nowadays eggs are coloured in other colours including blue, green, yellow, patterns and so on. Apart from the religious part, Easter has a delicious meaning for Cypriots too cause it's the time of the year mothers, grandmothers and women in general bake the famous Flaounes! Mothers and daughters will gather in a house to prepare and bake their Flaounes, a delicious cheese filled pastry.
Another Holly celebration for Cyprios which apart of gift giving, decorations, Christmas spirit and Christmas carols bring tasty treats! It is a tradition in Cyprus to bake more than just Christmas cookies. Cypriots also bake melomakarona, loukoumades and prepare for New Years a cake called Vasilopita. It is usually a plane cake with a coin in it. The New Year is written on top of it and the father cuts the cake at New Years. Firstly, he cuts a piece for Jesus, Mary, a stranger, the host and then one for each member of the family starting from the eldest to the youngest. Whoever finds the coin the coming year is thought to bring him luck.
Another folk related to Christmas is that of the Christmas Goblins or as Cypriots call them "Kallikantzaroi". Kallikantzaroi live in the center of the earth, but during Christmas those mischievous creatures make their way out and into the homes of people through the chimney. They are believed to be troublemakers that would do any kind of mischief and thus the families want to keep them away. To do so they would throw lokmas (loukoumades) the Greek version of donuts, on their chimney to feed them and send them away saying «Τιτσί τιτσί λουκάνικο κομμάτι ξεροτήανο να φάτε τζιαί να φύετε». While there is no exact translation for this, in simple words it means "eat the lokmas and leave".
One more thing, the article picture shows the traditional clothing for males and females. Females wore a dress called "sayia" that had an opening in the front and at the sides along with a shirt worn inside the dress. Morover they wore long underwear embroidedred at the ends that covered the legs up to the sole. As for men they wore "Vraka" the traditional trousers made of a handmade cotton cloth, sweing together many pieces to make it look tufted. The trousers are tied with a long lace ("Vrakozoni") that passes through the creases found on the upper part. While at first the shirts for males didn't have collars eventually they were added to them. On top of the shirt they would wear a dark and simple waistcoat, while for special occassions a waistcoat embroided with colourful designs was worn.
Aren't you already falling in love with Cyprus folk and tradition?? We know we are!
Emily from StayPlanet