Public Holidays in Cyprus: What You Need to Know

Public Holidays in Cyprus

Public holidays in Cyprus involve some of the most exciting and anticipated times of the year. There are historical, cultural and religious events and festivals that draw crowds of Cypriots every year. Most of the holidays are based upon the Greek Orthodox church and calendar as it plays such an important role to the people of Cyprus.

In this article we are going to look at some of the most popular public holidays including Green Monday and the festivals and celebrations surrounding Greek Orthodox Easter.

public holiday in Cyprus

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Green Monday

Green Monday (Kathara Deftera in Greek) is the first day of lent in the Greek Orthodox calendar and lasts 40 days until Easter. This public holiday is celebrated outdoors so you will usually find residents of Cyprus in parks, beaches or neighbors gardens on this day.

The food eaten on Green Monday is very specific due to it having to be fasting foods. This includes sesame bread, olives, beetroots, cucumber, hummus and octopus along with other fruits and vegetables. Local wine, beer and especially zivania is also consumed during this holiday. Meat, dairy and eggs are traditionally avoided on Green Monday and not consumed until the end of lent. Although some do not follow this it is still a widespread tradition in Cyprus.

If you are in Cyprus during Green Monday you might also notice many locals flying kites as it is a long-standing practice. Cypriots will decorate their pentagon shaped kites with bright colors specifically for this day each year with it being enjoyed by both children and adults.

The Easter Public Holidays in Cyprus

Now this public holiday in Cyprus is without a doubt the most anticipated. It is the most important celebration in the Greek Orthodox calendar as well as being the largest festive period. Easter, known as Pascha in Greek sees carnivals in all major cities across Cyprus and although the ‘Holy Week’(the week leading to Easter Sunday) is filled with excitement, Good Friday, Saturday and Easter Sunday are when celebrations truly begin. On Friday people collect flowers to decorate the ‘Epitaphios’. The Epitaphios is the icon that depicts Christ after he was removed from the cross. A service on Friday evening is held in all the churches on the island and the decorated Epitaphios is carried into the streets for a procession before being returned to the church to continue the service. On Easter Saturday 2 services are held in churches across the island. One of these services is set for early morning with the second being at 11pm. Before the 11pm service which us known as ‘The service of the Resurrection’ church bells are heard across Cyprus calling everybody to come and celebrate. Huge bonfires are lit in churchyards and residents celebrate the resurrection of Jesus throughout the night. Finally, when Easter Sunday arrives families and friends gather to enjoy a barbeque styled feast with either lamb, pork or chicken. Celebrations continue until Tuesday nights with churches and village squares being packed with people enjoying traditional Cypriot music and games.
celebrations in Cyprus

Assumption Day

The 15th August is one of the most celebrated and well-known public holidays in Cyprus. Assumption Day is celebrated by Christians around the world. The Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Protestant religions know this as one of the most important days in their calendars as it is the day the Virgin Mary ascended into Heaven. Although it is widely known as Assumption day, people of the Orthodox religion also know it as Dormition of the Mother of God (Dormition of Theotokos).

For Cypriots this holiday is considered extremely important and many residents take up to 7 days holiday the week of the 15th August. Celebrations are seen throughout the island; beaches are packed with people, family and friends gather for barbeques and supermarkets, banks and other facilities close. Although celebrations are widespread, the tourist industry stays open throughout the holiday so if you are looking for an open supermarket or kiosk chances are you will find one in a tourist area of the island.

Epiphany Day

Epiphany Day is the 12th day of Christmas and is celebrated on the 6th January every year. Known as ‘Ta Fota’ in Greek which means ‘The Light’, this public holiday in Cyprus celebrates the baptism of Jesus in the river Jordan. The festivities take place in all the harbors around the island. The Bishop will lead a procession of organizations including schools and youth groups to the harbor for the Epiphany service where he then dramatically throws the procession cross into the sea to bless the waters. Many locals will then dive in to retrieve the cross and whoever succeeds is said to have good luck for the coming year.

Conclusion

Although we have only mentioned a few of the public holidays (there are 16 in total) we think these are the most celebrated throughout the island. If you are in Cyprus during any of these holidays then you should definitely join in with the festivities that the locals enjoy.

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