In this article we will tell you about feasts and holidays celebrated by Cypriots. This information could be useful, if you plan to spend your vacations on the island. There are different kinds of holidays in Cyprus: secular (New Year, Labor Day), religious (Christmas, Easter and others) and Cyprus traditional holidays (Kataklysmos, Cyprus Independence Day and some others). Each of them has its own traditions, connections with the history or legends of the island, specialties and some of them like famous Limassol Carnival Festival are bringing together fans of such colourful attractions from all around the world.
The New Year begins in Cyprus like in many other countries of the world at the 1st of January. This holiday is celebrated on the island not in a big way as Christmas before it. However you will see fairy lights and decorations in each of the big cities of the island and have the opportunity to take part in round dances, winter plays and competitions that are held outside on the streets.
Agios Vasilis (local Santa Claus) brings the presents for children. They leave the traditional pie “Vasilopita” and sometimes even a glass of wine for him under the New Year tree. A coin is hidden in the filling of the pie.
Theophany is the final holiday in the row of Christmas — New Year — Epiphany holidays and the last day of the Christmas vacations. The Great Blessing of the Water is one of its traditions that is held on the 6th of January. During this ceremony a cross is thrown into the water and chants are sang. The Cypriots bring the holy water from the churches to bless their houses the day before the celebration. According another tradition the young men may dive into the water trying to catch the cross that priests throw from the shore. Popular thinking is that who reaches the cross first will get the special blessing for the next year.
Open air events, dancing, singing, competitions, presents and visiting friends and family are the essential parts of the celebration.
This is also St. Epiphanius of Salamis feast day, a man who was in charge of the Church of Cyprus from 386 to 403 AD.
The day of the All-Merciful Kykkos Icon of the Mother of God
This is a religious celebration commemorated in Cyprus at the 8th of January (it’s not an official day off).
According to the tradition this icon was written by the Holy Evangelist St. Luke. The icon is now kept in the Kykkos monastery but never looked at and remained hidden behind the protective covering, even the clerics do not dare to look at it.
Saint Neophytos of Cyprus Day
His memory is celebrated on the 24th of January. The solemn sacred procession is held at this day to monastery that is built on the place where St. Neophytos of Cyprus lived an ascetic life in the cave. 24th of January is the only one day of the year when the mess is held in the cave chapel.
Saint Neophytos of Cyprus Day is also not an official day off.
Limassol Carnival Festival
Colourful and funny Carnival Festival is held in Limassol and other coastal cities in Cyprus in the beginning of the spring. Limassol Carnival Festival is the biggest one on the island — it lasts for 10 days. During this time the citizens and the guests can take part in costume parades, dancing and musical events, visit different exhibitions and other cultural events. To know more about the history of this celebration and its schedule in 2017 read this article.
Green (also Clean) Monday is the first day of 50-days Great Lent that begins with the general cleaning of the house in Cyprus. After it the families go to the countryside to have a picnic.
Greece’s National Day in Cyprus (Greek Independence Day)
Greek Independence Day (public holiday) is celebrated on 25th of March. At this day Cypriots commemorate the heroes who took part in the Revolution in 1821-1829 when the Ottoman rule came to an end and Greece became independent.
On the Greek Independence Day there are different sport and cultural events, parades, festivities and celebrations on the city squares.
Cypriot National Day
Cypriot National Day is celebrated on the 1st of April, marking the day in 1955 when the national liberation struggle against British colonizers began on the island. It ended with receiving autonomy after several years. The first president of the new independent republic became the archbishop Makarios.
1st of April is a public holiday in Cyprus.
Lazarus Saturday is the last Saturday before the Holy Week when the religious people celebrate the day St. Lazarus was resurrected by Christ. One of the traditions of this day is to made decorations from gladioli and yellow daisies.
Easter is the most significant and long awaited event for the Orthodox Cypriots. The date of celebration is calculated according to the lunisolar calendar and varies from year to year. Many traditions, legends and specialties of the island are connected with this holiday. You can read more about it in our review “Easter celebration in Cyprus”.
Also known as International Worker’s Day it is celebrated on the 1st of May in Cyprus. Except dancing, singing and other common attributes of the celebration Cypriots take part in demonstrations and meetings aiming at improving of working conditions. Apart from that, 1st of May is also a day of Cyprus accession to the EU and a day of the Flower festival.
Anfistory (Anfestiria, Anthestiria) is the Festival of Flowers when great flower fairs are held all around the island. There are carnivals in Pafos, Limassol and Larnaka: decorated with every kind of flowers platforms with Cypriots wearing colourful costumes on them are moved through the main streets of the cities. Concerts, musical and dancing events are organized for the citizens and the guests.
Anfistory is always celebrated on the one of Sundays in May. The historical tradition of flower carnival has its origins in Dionysus cult — the god of wine and theatre art.
Festival of Flowers is a great event for Cypriots because there are not so many garden flowers in Cyprus. Bouquets for great celebrations are ordered in advance because they are often brought from abroad. However people present flowers to each other during Anfistory without any special reason.
Kataklysmos or Flood Festival is the water celebration and the day Cypriots remember about the Great Flood. Kataklysmos is celebrated at the same day as the Feast of the Holy Trinity that is counted from Easter (in 2016 it was on 19th of June).
Flood Festival was dedicated to Adonis and Aphrodite back in the ancient times and was celebrated in a big way: different sport events were held on the riverbanks or on the seashore.
The part of this tradition remained even nowadays: there are swim competitions and sailing races on the Kataklysmos Day in the coastal cities of Cyprus. Apart from that, there are folklore performances and music on the streets. People take part in dancing events, competitions and carnival parades. The celebration ends with a firework in the evening. It’s an interesting fact that Kataklysmos is the kind of celebration that is held only in Cyprus.
Beer Festival in Limassol
Annual Beer Festival is always held in Limassol during the most severe heat in the second half of July (in 2016 it took place on the 15th of July). The Festival lasts three days, during which musicians and DJs from all over the world perform open-air concerts in Limassol and “beer” costume carnival takes place.
The Beer Festival is very popular by the guests of Cyprus: it’s the great opportunity to enjoy the sunny weather, listen to all genres of music and to taste a dozen kinds of beer within a few days.
The Assumption of the Virgin Mary
The Assumption of the Virgin Mary (also known as the Assumption Day) is a public holiday and an official day off in Cyprus that is celebrated on the 15th of August. There is the tradition of solemn sacred procession on the night of the Assumption Day. Monasteries dedicated to Virgin Mary proceed festive services. Many Cypriots prefer to get to the Kykkos monastery for this celebration.
According to the religious sources the Virgin Mary lived in the house of John the Apostle in Jerusalem and provided help and support to the faithful. The Archangel Gabriel appeared to her three days before her death and gave a white lily from heaven gardens as a symbol of the upcoming ascension. At the Assumption Day Christ surrounded by angels came down from heaven to the Virgin Mary.
To celebrate The Assumption of the Virgin Mary the icons are decorated with flowers. At this day people try to be more kind and pay a special attention to their nearest and dearest.
Limassol Wine Festival
Limassol Wine Festival is usually held at the end of August (for example in 2016 it took place on 26th of August). This celebration lasts 10 days and is dedicated to the most famous drink in Cyprus that produced on the island according to the traditions and secrets passed through generations.
There are tastings of local wines (you can taste some wine for free within a few hours almost every evening), concerts and magic shows during the Festival. The guests of the Festival can also enjoy bouzouki tunes and take part in wine making: stomp on the grapes in special vats.
Wine Festival takes place at the Limassol Municipal Gardens; you should pay an entrance fee to join it.
The Exaltation of the Cross in Cyprus
Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross in Cyprus celebrated on the 14th of September. The origins of the celebration date back to the time Saint Elena (mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great) searched for the True Cross Christ was crucified on in Jerusalem. She has found it after long period of seeking and took it to Constantinople. Because of the storm the ship has to come ashore in Cyprus. There were a sign and a vision (a pillar of fire in the sky) to St. Elena showing the place where the church should be built keeping the part of the True Cross. This place is Stavrovouni monastery.
Independence Day in Cyprus is celebrated on the 1st of October; the fight for liberation ended in 1960. This is a public holiday and an official day off, which main event is a large military parade in Nicosia (usually begins at 11 in the morning).
This day is also reach on different theatre and circus performances, concerts and merrymaking.
Ohi (Oxi) Day is a Greek national holiday that is celebrated on the 28th of October. At this day in 1940 fascist Italy offered an ultimatum to Greece according which the last one should join the regime and let Italy to use Greek territory for military maneuvers. The answer to Mussolini was the word “Ohi” that translates from Greek as “No”. As a result Cypriots and Greek had to take part in the military actions that ended with defeat of the Mussolini troops.
There are demonstrations, military parades and merrymaking at “Ohi” Day in Cyprus.
Christmas is the last celebration we want to tell you about. It is one of the most loved both by profane and religious Cypriots holidays of the year that is celebrated on the 25th of December. You can read more about the traditions of this holiday in this review.