CYPRIOT PUBLIC HOLIDAYS AND MAJOR FESTIVALS
There are many holidays and festivals in Cyprus, most of which take place between spring and autumn. They are largely dictated by the Greek Orthodox Church, and the following list is dedicated to these. There are many regional and village wine festivals but further information on these can be obtained from the Cyprus Tourism Organization. You can also check our Calendar on the Home Page for variable public holidays.
NEW YEAR’S DAY
As with most countries, people celebrate New Years Day with fireworks and parties spanning midnight. New Year’s Eve/Day, but the Cypriot traditions go even further. New Year’s Eve is when Ayios Vasilis (St. Basil) arrives with gifts in readiness for his Name Day on New Year’s Day (Protochronia). Traditional food is Vasillopitta (Basil’s Pie), a sponge cake flavoured with orange, brandy and almonds.
EPIPHANY (Ta Fota)
In Cyprus, this holiday is known as Ta Fota, meaning “the Light”, and is the celebration of Christ’s baptism. Festivities take place largely in harbours. During this service, the officiating priest will throw his processional cross into the sea, it is retrieved by the young men of the town. He who returns the cross is believed to have a year’s good luck. Traditional foods are lokoumades, which are small honey-soaked pastries.
GREEN MONDAY (Lent Monday)
Green Monday (Kathara Deftera) is a very important holiday in the Orthodox calendar and also marks the start of spring. It is preceded by 10 days of carnival, which is a celebration of feasts, parades, and fun, the largest of which takes place in Limassol.
The festival is heralded in by “King Carnival”, who also farewells it on the Sunday before Green Monday. Green Monday is a family feast set to mark the start of the 50 day Orthodox Lenten fast. Those taking part stop eating meat and dairy products favour of fish. Traditionally families head to the country or beaches with a vegetarian picnic. Flying kites is also common.
GREEK INDEPENDENCE DAY
This holiday celebrates the Greek Revolution of 1821 against the Turks, but is also celebrating of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary.
GREEK CYPRIOT NATIONAL DAY
This day marks the start of the EOKA rebellion to gain independence from Britain, begun on 1st April, 1955.
Easter (Pascha) is the most important holiday in the Orthodox calendar, and Holy Week marks the lead up to the end of the Lenten fast at midnight on Easter Saturday. Good Friday marks the end of a week of cleaning in households, and the making of “flaounes”; a cake flavoured with cheese and either sultanas or mint. In the churches, women arrive with flowers to decorate the wooden processional tabernacle. (epitaphios) There is a parade through the streets after nightfall; accompanied by the priest and children bearing candles.
Traditionally, a bonfire near the church is prepared and lit after dark by the children to mark the betrayal of Christ by Judas. At 23.30 the midnight mass begins culminating with the extinguishing of all lights in the church. After a brief silence, participants light candles to the ringing of church bells.
The Lenten fast is over, and households hold feasts featuring meats and fish.
A day of rest and recovery after the Easter celebrations.
MAY DAY/LABOUR DAY
To mark the achievements of workers in Cyprus. Traditionally spring flowers are hung on doors to ward off evil.
WHIT MONDAY / PENTECOST / KATAKLYSMOS
This holiday is marked by the Feast of the Pentecost, and is a celebration mostly unique to Cyprus. People celebrate this to mark the saving of mankind and animals by Noah. Celebrations take place mainly at the sea side. It is considered lucky to sprinkle each other with sea water; symbolic of the cleaning and purification of the body and soul. This celebration takes place on the waterfront of Larnaca.
before the feast, there is a fasting period of 14 days. The feast celebrates the death, resurrection and assumption of the Virgin Mary into Heaven. Also known as Dormination of the Theotokos (falling asleep of the Mother of God).
CYPRUS INDEPENDENCE DAY
Celebrating the independence of Cyprus from Britain and the gaining of status as an independent, democratic state on 1st October, 1960.
GREEK NATIONAL DAY / OCHI DAY
“Ochi” means “no”, and this celebration marks the famous reply by the Greek Prime Minister, Metaxas, to Mussolini’s surrender ultimatum in 1940. The day is marked by parades and dancing.
The second most important celebration in the Orthodox calendar, Christmas Day celebrates the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. Church services and family gatherings take part in Christmas, generally speaking it is more traditional than the Western commercialized celebrations.
A traditional day of rest and recovery after Christmas Day.