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Typical Traditions & Customs in Cyprus
Cyprus is a country with a rich history, an interesting culture and many customs and traditions. Cypriots are very proud of their cultural heritage, which dates back over 9000 years. The traditions and customs the culture in Cyprus can best be observed on special occasions and ceremonies.
Below are some of the most prominent and interesting:
Name Day & Family Names
You will notice that Birthdays are not as popular of an event in Cyprus as they are in other cultures; however Name Days are very much celebrated on the island. Babies are characteristically named after the relevant Saint of their particular region; with the eldest son often named after his Grandfather, while the eldest daughter after her Grandmother. As a result of this tradition, cousins often have the same name, and generally many habitants on the island have the same name.
Plate smashing is an ancient Greek tradition which spread to the majority of the Greek islands, Cyprus included. Performed at weddings, parties and other celebrations; plates are typically thrown to the floor and broken whilst singing and dancing. How many pieces the plate breaks into determines the throwers fortunes and prosperities. Plate smashing can still be found in some parts of Greece and Cyprus, however after many injuries occurred, this tradition has now mostly been replaced with the throwing of flowers, due to the obvious health and safety issues related to the smashing of many plates.
The kompoloi (directly translated to string of beads) is a familiar sight in the hands of many Greek and Cypriot nationals. It first became a popular pastime between men in Greece and the Greek islands. The word kompoloi derives from the word kombos, meaning the knot. The magic and attraction derived from running these knots through the fingers are thought to have originated from the thoughts summoned from playing with the string of beads, which are stereotypically always made with an odd number of beads.
The Evil Eye or ‘Matiasma’
It is common believe stemming from years of superstition that an individual can catch the evil eye, or matiasma from another person’s jealousy or envious stare. After a person has caught the evil eye, they are said to have been cursed and usually feel mentally and physically bad. Those who believe in it will try to avoid the matiasma by wearing a small blue glass pendant with an eye painted on it, either in necklace or bracelet form. Blue is believed to be the colour that deters the evil eye; however it is also commonly believed that people with blue eyes are the givers of the matiasma curse.
Tuesday the 13th: A Day of Bad Luck
Unlike popular western superstition of Friday the 13th being extremely unlucky, in Cyprus the unfortunate day is Tuesday the 13th. Those who are superstitious avoid making any important arrangements on this day, for fears of the plans being cursed or becoming an unsuccessful venture.
Unlike the Christian Easter, Orthodox Easter is the first Sunday after the full moon of the vernal equinox, so the date varies each year. Easter in Cyprus is an event that is celebrated as much as Christmas, if not more. Celebrations generally last for 5 days, from Good Friday, through to the following Tuesday where public holidays are in place. Easter Sunday is a day of huge celebrations, with copious amounts of eating, drinking, singing and the cracking of eggs that have been dyed red. The idea of the eggs is to knock your egg hard against your opponent’s egg and the persons whose egg is the strongest and last the longest will be lucky.