Easter customs & traditions of Cyprus
from the old days until the present...
Easter is a big feastivity of the
The preparations for this big feast begin
from Saturday of Lazarus.
The schools have closed from the previous
day for the Easter Holidays.
Preparations for Easter in our schools
The last day before the schools close, the children with the
escort of their schoolteachers go to church in order to attend
the Divine Ceremony. Little before the end of the ceremony
the children receive with devotion the Holy Communion.
When they return to school they deal with Easter
They make Easter cards and write in their wishes.
Afterwards they exchange the cards between them.
Also, the children dye eggs in order to decorate the easter
baskets that they have made at school and at home.
It is also important that the easter eggs are decorated with
The junior classes make egg holders with bugs
bunny drawings on them, which are decorated with
nicely and beautifully coloured eggs.
The older children make traditional easter cookies
in order to fill their easter baskets with them!
The schoolteachers replace all the signs with decorations of
pictures that refer to the sufferings of Jesus Christ during the Holy
Also, with the help of their students they make beautiful Easter
corner places in the school.
The “song of Lazarus” has its honorary. A team of children
sing “the song of Lazarus” while another child dresses itself
as Lazarus and wears the white clothes and a hoop with
yellow daisies. The representation of Lazarus takes place in
the presence of all the children and their schoolteachers.
A little before they leave school, the children are given a
gift by the School’s Parents Association. The gift is
usually an Easter chocolate egg with a small toy.
Preparations for Easter in the villages
and in our cities
The housewives begin their house-cleaning from
the beginning of the Holy Week. They even
paint their walls with asvestos in order to be
clean and white. In the old days they used a
brush made of a bush called xystarka.
Also, during Easter, people would buy new
clothes for themselves and their families.
The preparations for Easter begin from “Saturday of Lazarus”.
The schools are already closed by then. The small children go from
house to house and sing the “song of Lazarus”. A child wearing
decorations of wild flowers (yellow daisies and lazaruses) would be
Lazarus. As a reward they are given eggs.
In the villages of Kerynia, the older children would go a couple of
days before the Saturday of Lazarus to the beach to extract
«paint», a species of moss that sprouts in the rocks that are
covered by the sea. This type of moss produces a liquid that is
used to dye eggs giving them a deep red colour. Afterwards, they
would visit the houses in the village to sing the song of Lazarus.
There they would give a little of the «paint» to the housewives so
that they would dye their easter eggs. They were then
compensated with eggs or money.
On The Olive-tree Sunday or
Sunday of Vaion as the last Sunday
before Easter is called, people take
small branches of olive trees leaves
and form small bundles and take
them to church. There they remain
for forty days up to the day of
Resurrection. In these way these
olive - tree leaves become blessed
and are used for the so called
«smoking» of houses- to keep
away illnesses- a tradition that
remains up to the present.
Also, when the priest says the
Gospel, all people in church make
crosses with the olive leaves and
pin them on to their clothes.
On Holy Wednesday in all the churches of
Cyprus we have the Ayios Efxeleos service,
where the priest deeps cotton in holy oil and
makes a cross on all people’s forehead.
From Holy Wednesday until Holy Saturday the
housewives bake cookies, afkotes (from eggs) and
Holy Thursday is said also as Kotsiinopefti, because red eggs are
dyed on this day. This custom has been transferred to Holy Saturday.
In Cyprus tradition says that the red eggs were dyed with the blood
of Christ that was dripping from his forehead when he was given
thorn hoop to ware on his head. Of course the egg is a symbol of life
and in the case of Resurrection symbolizes the new life, that is to say
the resurrection of Christ from the dead. The egg breaking or
cracking symbolizes the exit of life after the eggs are cracked. We dye
the eggs red, because red is the colour of blood, that is of life.
In the old days, dry onion leaves were used to dye red eggs, daisies
for yellow and almond tree leaves for green eggs. Today, there are
various ready paints for dyeing eggs.
During Holy Thursday they used to gather diosmos
which they used to make tea all the year round. This tea
was considered to be suitable for treating stomach aches.
Another custom of Holy Thusday in several villages
of Limassol district such as Pachna, Vouni, Kilani, PeraPedi, Mandria, and Trimiklini, is the baking of the
traditional cookies known «arkatena».
On the night of Holy Thursday, during the ceremony we watch
the Crucifixion of Christ and listen to the 12 Gospels. All churches
have their icons covered with black pieces of cloth. Below and near
the analogue, on which the Holy Bible is placed, people place their
bottles full of water to be blessed and become Holy Water. This
Holy Water is drunk to heal illnesses but also used in the
preparation of the Easter bread.
In the village of Xyliatios, 2 bottles are placed in baskets. The first
bottle has water whilst the second has wine. These are then
placed under the 12 Gospels. The wine is drunk by someone who is
sick, but on an empty stomach, whilst the holy water is used to
prepare the dough which is used to make «flaounes».
On Holy Friday we have the decoration of the Epitaphios. Round mid-day, the
Epitaphios is almost ready and decorated with beautiful flowers.
People living in villages close to mountainous or semi-mountainous areas, use a
wild flower called Myrofores. This type of flower is considered vital for the
decoration of the Epitaphios, mainly due to the ladies called Myrofores in the
years that Christ lived but also due to its smell and aroma. One of the basic
aromatic plants for the decoration of the Epitafios is myrsini or mercynia as the
people call it. In addition, all the people used to send any kind of flowers that
they had in their home gardens.
At Holy Friday night, the churches are filled with people. The icons are being
covered with black clothes and the melodies heard during the ceremony are
full of saddness, indicating the sorrow for christ’s sufferings. It is also
customary for the Epitaphios to be hand moved all over the village just before
the ceremony is over. In some churches, the women stay up all night close to
the Epitaphios. That is, they stay up all night beside the deceased Christ, as
they used to do with all the dead persons at that time.
Some of the flowers that were used to decorate the Epitaphios, are given by
the priest to all the people in the church when they show their respect to Christ
who has been crucified. These flowers are kept and used for the so called
«smoking» of houses to keep away illnesses.
In the morning of Holy Saturday, the Resurrection Ceremony takes place.
When the priest says out loud «Anasta o Theos», all the black clothes covering
the icons fall to the floor and people strike hard on the church seats while at
the same time the priest walks in the church throwing daphne leaves. All these
symbolize the victory of life against death…
On Holy Saturday, the preparations for the Resurrection ceremony begin
early. The young people in villages and in towns start gathering trees as
well as all kinds of wood and pile them up in the church yards, in order to
light-up the «Lambratzia».
Over the years, this has become a very popular custom, because the
people standing around the «Lambratzia» fire not only get their bodies
warm but also their hearts. Friends and relatives get into the Easter spirit
and exchange wishes and nice, warm words.
They also throw into the «Lambratzia» fire a dummy representing Judas
Iskariot, as well as the «Martis», a string-made bracelet which is worn on
one hand since the 1st of March of each year, so as not to be burned by
the sun, according to tradition.
Just before midnight, church bells will sound, calling joyfully upon
the people to gather at church for the ceremony of love and
rebirth. Everybody must be in church to hear the so-called
At exactly 12 midnight, all the lights in churches are switched-off
and the priest is seen rushing-out of the Holy Entrance holding a
candle and singing «Defte Lavete Fos...». Everyone will light
their candles from that of the priest, for his has been lit with the
Holy Light or Fire. The ceremony is carried-on outside in the
church yard where the priest reads the Gospel for the
Resurrection of Christ saying «Christos Anesti...». Everyone
repeats the phrase exchanging wishes at the same time, and
thanking others by saying «Alithos Anesti o Kirios...», and
When the Divine Ceremony is over, the people gather round the
«Lambratzia» fire and all those having their name day ,offer
fresh flaouna, zivania and wine to all the people present.
Afterwards, everyone leaves church and goes home, where all
the families will enjoy a warm bowl of avgolemoni or magiritsa
soup, accompanied by boiled chichen and flaouna. They will also
crack their colored eggs where the winner will be the person
whose egg will not break in that contest. Tradition has it that the
On Easter Sunday, the ceremony begins at 11 in the morning.
The Gospel is being read in various languages.
Furthermore on Easter Sunday the well known «souvla» is
cooked by almost everyone while singing and dancing is a must
on this day.
Festivities in the village squares and in towns
In the afternoon, various festive activities are organized in the
village squares and in towns and these include traditional
dances, and games such as tombola or bingo, the rope, ziziros,
triapithkia, ditzimin, vasilitzia, e.t.c.
In people’s homes one can see swings where girls
would sit on the swings and sing traditional songs.
It is customary that these festivities continue for three
days. The coffee shops in all the villages are full of
Community Councils and Town Municipalities in their
efforts to revive old customs and traditions, organize
various festivities on Easter Monday and Tuesday. It is a
means of preserving customs and traditions but also for
people to come together, for they are in great need of
these in our days…