A real taste of tradition; Easter holidays in Cyprus
Holidays in Cyprus are a popular choice and one of the best things about this beautiful island is that it’s a joy to visit at anytime of the year. Whether you want to enjoy the Cyprus weather and take a break from a gloomy winter or want to sizzle in the summer sun, you’re unlikely to be disappointed. If you want to get a real taste of traditional Cyprus holidays though, it’s probably worth looking at a visit around Easter time, in April.
The Easter holidays are the most important of all the religious celebrations for Cypriots, a time of rebirth and newness. The Easter holidays in Cyprus are a time for families, traditional food and church-based activities. From the Thursday to the Sunday of Holy Week, there are all kinds of things happening in Cyprus in deference of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. If you’re planning on taking a holiday in Cyprus around this time, here are some of the things you may see and even be part of.
Things you’ll see on your holidays in Cyprus during Holy Week
During Easter, or Pascha, you will notice several traditions being observed on your Cyprus holiday. Here’s a brief guide to the traditional Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations, day by day.
Holy Thursday: Holy Thursday, also known as Great Thursday, is the first day of the main Easter events for the Cypriots. Tsoureki (a type of bread) is baked and red dye is used to paint eggs which represent the blood of Christ and his victory over death; these eggs are later used by children for a traditional Easter game. The churches hold a crucifixion service to mark the onset of the mourning period for the loss of Christ and some women observe this by staying in the churches for the duration of the night, in the traditional mourning style.
Holy Friday: This is the most important of the Easter holy days and is given over to mourning rather than work or any other regular daytime activities. Traditionally families don’t cook on Holy Friday – if they do cook, they prepare only the most basic of dishes like beans or soups. This is the only day of the year that the Divine Liturgy is left unread; flags fly half-mast and you will hear church bells ringing slowly all day.
During this part of the Easter holiday in Cyprus, the churches will be populated with women and children, flocking to help adorn the Epitaphio (bier of Christ) with beautiful flowers of every colour. The church holds the traditional Service of Lamentation and the Epitaphio is carried through the village to the cemetery and back to the church again, while the congregation make up the procession, all holding candles.
Holy Saturday: A busy and exciting day in the Cyprus holiday celebrations for Easter. Television channels turn their attention to the delivery of the Eternal Flame, carried in by military planes. Families prepare for the imminent feasting that takes place the next day, with traditional magaritsa soup made ready for breaking the fast after the midnight church celebrations.
The Service of the Resurrection held at midnight is a beautiful sight – everyone has a candle, often as big as 3 feet, which are lit from the Eternal Flame at the altar (the only source of light for the initial part of the ceremony) after 12 o’clock passes. Well wishes are exchanged and singing rings out along with the sound of bells and fireworks. The island is covered with light, as the crowds make their way back home from church holding their lit candles. If you’re taking your holidays in Cyprus at this time of year, you will be blown away by the wonderful sight of what seems like a million lights moving through the balmy night.
If you are on your holidays in Cyprus and you want to feel a part of this magical celebration, there are opportunities to do so, even if you don’t know any local families. Some of the best hotels fall in with tradition and offer fabulous celebratory meals and events; the Londa Beach Hotel in Limassol are laying on the traditional Holy Sunday After-Mass breakfast, serving delicious Magiritsa Soup, Flaounes and red eggs to help their guests really immerse themselves in the Cypriot culture while on their holidays in Cyprus.
Easter Sunday: A real day for celebration, family gatherings and enjoying plenty of food and drink – the latter could be said to be one of the best parts of a Cyprus holiday! Families get together to enjoy lamb roasted on a spit, plenty of tasty accompanying dishes and wine and Ouzo is served liberally. Children chase each other with their red eggs, seeing whose will stay in one piece when cracked against another egg or even a person – the owner of the longest surviving egg is the winner. Again, The Londa Beach Hotel is one of the quality hotels that offer visitors to the island the chance to really throw themselves into the Easter Cyprus holidays celebrations, serving the national dish of spit-roasted Souvla on Easter Sunday. So you can enjoy a relaxing holiday in Cyprus while still feeling a part of the island’s tradition and taking advantage of the fabulous Cyprus weather. The Londa has been voted the leading Mediterranean boutique hotel 3 times running, from 2008 to 2010.
Easter Monday: After all the activity over the Easter period, the Cyprus holidays start to wind down on Easter Monday. It is a national holiday and a day to rest, slow the pace and tuck into all the leftover food from the previous day’s feasting!