As Easter approaches, an air of festivity envelops the towns and villages. Expectations are high and the buzz is clearly felt. During Holy Week, also known as Megali Evdomatha (the week before Easter Sunday), churches hold services both early in the morning and in the evening. Easter is a movable celebration and it’s the Greatest Holiday of the Orthodox Church. It is always celebrated on the first Sunday following the first Full Moon occurring on or after the Spring equinox.
Cypriots in general are very religious and during the last week of Easter, they are fasting. Fasting actually is for 50 days as the greek orthodox church depicts but our generation nowadays seems to be able to handle it during Holy Week. It is called “Sarakosti” (lent) and people are not supposed to eat meat, dairy products, or oil.
On Holy Thursday “Flaounes” are baked. Flaounes are made of shortcrust with cheese, egg, raisings, and mint filling. All the family will gather together from early in the morning and will help bake them. In some areas like Paphos they bake variations of Flaounas where they mix meat also, that variation is called Paskia. Also on the same day, we dye eggs to symbolize Christ’s Blood from the Cross.
During the evening people go to church as it is the crucifixion of Christ and people “mourn”. The Church’s icons are covered with black veils to show their grief.
“Epitafios” is on Holy Friday. Everyone takes flowers to the church and they decorate the Epitafios. During the evening servicemen carry the “Epitafios” outside the Church around the neighborhood and back to the church, where people follow the “Epitafios” the whole time.
On Holy Saturday morning, people go to church from early in the morning as it is the service that symbolizes the resurrection of Christ. The church doors and seats are banged by the people and all the black veils that cover the icons drop.
At midnight everybody goes to church and celebrates the resurrection of Christ. Candles are lit by the Holy Light (brought straight from Jerusalem) and many people take home their candle with the Holy Light in order for their house to be blessed. Another great tradition takes place on Good Saturday, called “Lambratzia”. Kids collect wood for weeks to set up an enormous burning spot in order for an effigy of Judas, the traitor, to be burned in the churchyard.
After the midnight service, the whole family gathers together for a feast. People eat a special kind of soup called “Avgolemono”. They also crack the hard-boiled, dyed, eggs and say “Christos Anesti” which means “Christ has risen from the dead,” and the response is “Alithos Anesti” which means indeed He has risen.
Holy Sunday or “Pascha”! On this day prepare to eat like never before. This day is all about family and friends. They all gathered together for a big feast with lots of dyed eggs, flaounes, souvla, koupepia (stuffed vine leaves) pastitsio (makaronia tou fournou) and wine.