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Christmas 2017 and 2018

Celebrating Christmas in Cyprus is a little different than anywhere else in the world. This holiday celebration is a full mix of culture, religious beliefs, and superstitions. There are many contrasts in Cyprus during the Christmas season, and it is easy to say that this holiday season is not celebrated like this anywhere else in the world.

201725 DecMonChristmas Day
201825 DecTueChristmas Day

The first thing that one should know about Cypriots is that a majority of them are  Orthodox Christians. The Orthodox religion often celebrates Christmas in January because they use a different calendar system than other Christians. However, Cypriots start their Christmas holiday on December 24 as Christmas Eve like non-Orthodox Christians.

Christmas Eve begins with parades and processions through town and door to door singing Christmas carols. What is most impressive is that these carols are not your typical modern carols, but songs from the Byzantine period. These beautiful melodies have been handed down for countless generations and sung each year on this night. Of course, you will still here the typical Jingle Bells in there once in a while, but most songs are traditional.

Christmas Day is celebrated as a family gathering. Santa Claus does not exist in Cyprus, and there are few presents exchanged this day. Most families start the day by attending church and then spend the afternoon and evening feasting with their family and friends.

Celebrations continue through January 6th which marks the date for orthodox Christmas or the Feast of the Epiphany for non-Orthodox Christians. During these celebrations there are two very special events.

January 1st marks not only the New Year; it is also the Feast of St. Basil. St. Basil is the patron saint of Cyprus and is the “bringer of gifts.” Much like Santa Claus, presents are brought on New Year’s Eve night and everyone exchanges gifts on New Year’s morning.

On January 5th, a very traditional event takes place. A golden cross is thrown into the sea. Young men then swim out and try to find the cross. The person who finds the cross and returns it to the priest is said to have good fortune for the next year. This tradition takes place in both Cyprus and Greece each year.

Businesses are often closed throughout the Christmas period. While some remain open to provide necessary services, they may close early or only open for certain periods during celebration time. Many Cypriots take their holiday during the two weeks of Christmas celebrations.

Christmas Traditions

Many Cypriots still adhere to traditions that have been around since the Byzantine period. His includes protecting their home from goblins and evil spirits during the 12 days leading up to Christmas. It is their belief that the 12 days prior to Christmas so enrage the spirits that if they do not ward off these spirits, bad luck will fall on their home. On the 12th day before Christmas, home owners hang a cross wrapped in basil leaves above their front door to protect them from the evil spirits.

Another tradition that many Cypriots follow concerning Christmas occurs when they return from church on Christmas day. Each member of the house crosses the threshold of the home with their right foot first after returning from church for a year of good luck and good fortune.