We love the little customs in Cyprus, they are what make it unique. Here are a few of our favourites:
Easter is the most celebrated religious holiday in Cyprus, more so than Christmas. Carnivals mark the start of Easter fasting period (no meat, dairy or poultry) which lasts 40 days prior to Easter Sunday. Easter ceremonies and celebrations are carried out from Thursday right through to Tuesday.
Unlike the western Friday the 13th, in Cyprus (and Greece) Tuesday the 13th is considered an unlucky day and precautions have to be taken in order to avoid accidents and misfortunes.
Hospitality: plays a huge part of the Cypriot culture. Cypriots are welcoming, friendly and love to host visitors. A saying which represents this is ‘kopiaste’ which basically means ‘welcome’ (direct translation ‘make an effort to’) which is used when inviting someone to share food, or inviting someone to your home.
The Evil Eye: In Greece and Cyprus, the evil eye is cast on you by someone who wishes you misfortune and bad luck. It is said that wearing a charm that carries an eye on it can protect you from any such curses.
Worry beads (Kompoloi): A collection of beads on a string to be used by one or two hands to pass time, to relax or even to have some fun. In Greek and Cypriot culture the use of kompoloi hasn’t actually got any meaning, but have been very popular for many years.
Name Days: These are celebrated more than birthdays in Cyprus. Children in Cyprus are named after saints, of which there is at least one dedicated to every day of the year, and celebrate their name day by receiving small gifts and having family & friends over for food. It is also traditional that on your name day, you buy the drinks for others, not the other way round.
Bakcgammon: or ‘Tavli’, one of the oldest board games for two players. You will often see Cypriots playing this game in the local coffee shops.
Seven chairs of comfort: There is a tradition in Cyprus that to be very comfortable in his coffee shop, a man needs seven chairs! One for his stick, one for his coffee, one for each arm, one for each leg and one to sit on.
Among many of the Cypriot traditions we have chosen to highlight food, dance and music to give you a peak inside the culture in Cyprus:
Food: If there’s one thing you are unlikely to get in a good Cypriot tavern then that’s a small portion. The Cypriot diet largely consists of meat and salad and involves appetizers, delicacies and sweets. Mezes epitomize the Cypriot cuisine and are not for the faint hearted; pitta, dips, salad, meats, cheeses, fish and more! Sweets in Cyprus are typically honey-soaked pastries, or sweet fruit preserves. Bon appetit! See page 27 for some more recommendations.
Dance: Dancing is a big part of life and still not deemed as ‘uncool’ for the younger generation, dancing is the backbone of festivals, bouzouki clubs & weddings. Traditional dress is often worn. Look out for the dancing that involves yielding a sickle, sieve or glass.
Music: Traditional Cypriot folk music is very similar to Greek, and is typically played by violin, bouzouki, accordion, lavouto & boulgari and oud. ‘Tsiattista’ singing accompanies music – these are poetic improvisations representing everyday life situations.
Cyprus Nights: The best way of getting a real taste of Cypriot culture is to go along and enjoy (at least) one of the Cyprus Nights that frequent throughout the summer months. Cypriots love to show off their traditions to the tourists and we guarantee you will leave your Cyprus Night fully entertained, full-bellied and having experienced a lovely insight into the country’s history. It’s a fantastic way for children to learn about a foreign way of life too, especially as children are such an important part of society.
Recommended Cyprus Nights:
- Bouzoukia at O’Vrakas Tavern in Pissouri on Wednesdays.
- Kouklia Village Square on Thursdays.
- Platea Tavern and O’Vrakas Tavern in Pissouri on Fridays.