All religious celebrations and social events are accompanied by different customs that add joy to everyday life. The preparations, the games, the songs, the feasts is what changes routine and enhanced village life with pleasure. Unfortunately, most of these folkways no longer exist, since the modern way of living has altered the way we think and live.
Preparations for Christmas start early, before Christmas. People fast for forty days, until they receive the Eucharist. Women take on the cleaning of the house and the preparation of delights, especially rusks.
On Christmas day, all people dressed in their Sunday suits went to church. They also used to wear new clothes on Christmas day, especially children. This was known as “pannizo”, namely wear new clothes or new shoes. Kinanis mentions, that “all people that managed to achieve that, were truly happy” because it was the only way for them to really understand and feel the Christmas spirit. Unfortunately, not all people could afford this.
When the Mass was over and all people received the Eucharist, they returned home and ate soup made of chicken, eggs and lemon New Year’s
The first day of the year is still considered a reason for the family to get together. All children would sit with the grandparents around the fireplace (tsiminia) and play a game that ‘revealed’ love. Namely, they would throw olive leaves in the fire and requested that Agios Vassilis would show if a beloved person loved them back.
If the olive leaves jumped, this meant that they loved them back. Kinanis points out that children used to ask if their uncle, godparents or other relatives loved them, so that they could tell who would give them money (ploumizo) on New Year’s.
On New Year’s Eve, all housewives used to set the table for Agios Vassilis, with boiled wheat, a bottle of wine, a pie especially made for Agios Vassilis, a plate and a glass. What is more, they would place a branch of olive tree on their door or their window.
On New Year’s Day, they would wear their Sunday suits and go to church. When they returned home, thy housewives began the preparation for lunch, while men went to the local coffee shop (kafeneio), to exchange wishes. All children would run to their relatives to wish them a happy new year and receive a small amount of money, known as “pouloustrina”. Older people would actually ask their children for money, so that they would be able to give their grandchildren their “pouloustrina”. This custom was repeated on Epiphany day.
Epiphany Day’s Eve
Epiphany Day’s Eve is also known as “Kalanta”. The village’s priest with all churchwardens would go around the village and bless all people by sprinkling holy water on all the houses of the village.
On Epiphany Day’s Eve, the benediction of the waters takes place. All people used to fill small bottles with holy water and then sprinkle their crops and trees with this water, so that they would be fructiferous.
At night the women of the house (mother, grandmother) would bake “kserotiana/ loukoumades” which is a kind of doughnut. Then they throw the first doughnuts on the houses’ roofs and say a small poem so bugbears, or else “skalapountaroi”(kalikantzaroi), would eat and leave.
Verbal tradition delivers a lot of stories with kalikantzaroi regarding the past. These myths have people seeing “priests, bulls, magi with supernatural powers, choirs with violins and lutes” at night in small alleys, bridges near rivers. On order for them to get away form these ‘ghosts’, they would cross themselves three times and pray.
In the morning, after the Service, all people would light candles or lamps with Holy Light and bring it home as a blessing from God. This Light should remain in the house for ten days. They also used to bring small lamps with Holy Light in the folds they had, so that their animals would be blessed as well.
After the Service, a big procession with the eparch, clergy and laity as well as with a draft from the militia takes place. They reach river Karkotis, near the bridge of “Koumnas”, where they meet people from other villages, such as Korakou and Tempria. Then the eparch of Morphou realises the benediction of the waters by immersing the cross. It must be noted, that this custom takes place since the eparchy of Morphou was transferred to Eurychou due to the fact that Morphou is occupied since 1974.
On Epiphany Day the village’s priest accompanied by the churchwardens and a young boy would go around the village and bless all the families and their houses. All housewives offered them kserotiana and wine. What is more, all people threw some coins in the container the boy held, as a gift to the priest. In this way, the churchwardens raised a sum of money, a kind of annual taxation for men over 25 years old.
Sikoses are inextricably connected with feasts. It is the period between the beginning of carnival on Sunday (Apokreo) and the following Sunday that is Shrovetide Sunday (Turofagou).
On carnival Sunday, all foods prepared are exclusively made of meat. On the week before, Wednesday and Friday are days of fast and prayer, so that 50 days of fast would lead to Easter. On Thursday of the same week, known as “Tsiknopempti”, people eat pork and sausages. “Tsikna” is the smell of grilled meat meat. That is why, this day is called “Tsiknopempti” (Pempti=Thursday).
After Carnival Sunday, comes Shrovetide Sunday and there are a lot of traditional songs regarding this period of the year.
It is used to only eat dairy products in the week following. Some traditional dishes are “galotri”, namely boiled pasta with milk, as well as “pourekkia”, made of pastry and stuffed with “halloumi” or “anari” (Cypriot cheeses). These were mostly prepared for the masqueraded people that would visit all the houses in the village.
Kinanis cites that there was a custom, something like a ‘rule’, according to which, all masqueraded visitors had to eat pourekkia, “wine produced by the landlord and wish that he and his family would live for a thousand years. They would wish that everyone would live happily until Easter”.
It is noteworthy that if the masqueraded did not visit a house of the village, then this family was insulted.
Maskes and Souses/ Masquerade and Swings
All young people in the village would dress up using the traditional clothes that usually belonged to their grandparents.
The feast began on Sunday morning, when the masqueraded young men walked around the village singing.
All young women would gather in houses with arches, where they used to hang “souses”, namely swings. They would swing and sing traditional songs mostly about love.
On Green Monday all people have picnics on the fields. They only eat Lenten food and sing. This day is also referred to as “cutting the nose of Sarakosti”, namely the beginning of the fast for Easter.
On the 1st of March every year, all parents tie a triple thread on their children’s wrists or necks, especially on girls. According to popular belief, this thread would protect them from the sun’s heat. This custom survived until the 1930’s. It is occasionally seen today as well.
The church bell used to signify Christ’s resurrection at 2 a.m. It now rings at 11 a.m.
The Mass would not begin if all people were not at church. If some were absent, then young men would go and bring them to church. Then the Service would begin and everyone would hear that “Christ has risen”.
When this is announced, people light their candles from the Resurrection’s holy light held by the priest, while young people celebrate with fireworks.
At the church’s parvis, people bring logs and light a fire known as “Lambratzia”, a kind of bonfire, in order to burn Judas.
The festive atmosphere lasts three more days at the parvis of Saint George’s church. Women and men would gather at different corners of the parvis and play traditional games. Several of them are still known and played. Let us get to know some of these games. It must be noted that men and women gather and play these games together.
Ditzimi is the game played only by the stronger men of the village. Whoever manages to lift the “ditzimi”, namely a large and heavy stone is the winner.
Seira Pashi is a game only played on Easter Sunday and the day after. Ten to twelve dyed eggs are placed in a row. All players hold an egg. Each of them has to ‘chink’ all the eggs with the one they hold without breaking it.
Proti Elia (First Olive Tree)
At least four persons are required for this game. On of them pretends to be an olive tree, by bending and creating a right angle with his body. All the other players jump over him, placing their hands on his back. Every time they jump, they must say how many times they have jumped so far. The forth time they jump, the man pretending to be the olive tree, creates a larger angle making things more difficult. The player that touches the ‘tree’ with the upper part of his legs, gets to play the part of the olive tree.
When a player manages to jump over the ‘olive tree’ for the fourth time without touching it, has to say, “I jump and place my handkerchief ”. If he does not touch the ‘olive tree’ the fifth and the sixth jump, then he has to say, “I jump and get my handkerchief”. The game is continued until the player touches the ‘olive tree’ or the throws down the handkerchief.
It is important that in Theocharis Kinanis’s book, Eurychou, Nicosia 2005 eleven different games and the way they are played are described.
“Cyprus” (Κύπρος), v.6, ed. Hadjithomas Andreas, Nicosia 1987
Kinani Theochari, Eurychou, Nicosia 2005