Easter Customs of Cyprus
Pascha, the Majestic Feast in the Heart of Spring “and so shall bloom the spring of faith” in our hearts
Pascha, the most luminous feast of Christianity and the greatest feast of Hellenism and the
people of Cyprus, who call it, “Lambri”, “the Bright One” since it shines with the light of
Resurrection that bathes life and all its facets: morals, customs and tradition. As the Services of Holy Week coincide with Spring, the divine Passions seem to relate to the passions and resurrection of Nature and man. It is, after all, the time to bid farewell to the long and absolute silence of Nature, to the agonising period of gestation in anticipation of welcoming the fruits, the flowers: of orange, pomegranate, rose, yarrow, lilly and the colours.
Everything predisposes the great triumph of life, renewed life, the redemption of the living, the Resurrection of the dead as descriped in the triumphant Paschal hymn:
Christ has risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and on those in the tombs bestowing life.
This is the message of the spiritual extravaganza of these days, from Lazarus’ Saturday until Pascha Sunday. A ritual that
narrates the divine Passion and relates to the tribulations of the suffering man, that culminates with Resurrection, depicted
in byzantine iconography as the “Descent to Hades” by Christ, where the Resurrected Christ gives His hand to Adam, to
raise him up and set him free from the bondage of death.
The path to Pascha begins on Lazarus Saturday. On Palm Sunday in the morning Liturgy, all the faithful take to the church olive branches in remembrance of the olive branches carried by the crowd of Jerusalem during Christ’s welcome to the city.
In the evening of Palm Sunday the faithful come to the church to witness the Service of the Bridegroom that initiates the Holy Week. In a solemn atmosphere and after putting out all lights in the church, the icon of Christ comes out, depicting Him wearing a red tunic, a crown of thorns and holding a cane in His tied hands, a unique depiction of Utter Humiliation.
The next three days, Great and Holy Monday, H. Tuesday and H. Wednesday every morning and evening long Services are celebrated. On Holy Tuesday evening the Troparion written by the nun Agia Cassiane is chanted in all churches for the repented whore who washed with myrrh the feet of Christ. On Holy Wednesday the sacrament of Holy Unction is served.
On Holy Thursday morning, the Holy liturgy in memory of the Last Supper is celebrated. All the housewives clean their homes, prepare the stavrokouloura (cross-shaped buns) and dye their eggs red. In the evening of Holy Thursday the Service of the Passion is chanted, a lengthy Service enacting the Crucifixion of Christ and the twelve Gospels are read out.
“Paschalogiorta” (Paschal feasts) Celebration of Easter and traditional cypriot customs
Paschalogiorta” comprises many customs that are preserved in Cyprus to this day. The main
ones are the red eggs, avkotes (bagels or buns decorated with eggs) and flaounes (special cheese pies).
Avkotes. Very characteristic of Easter baking are the various types of bagels or buns decorated with one or more red eggs. On Holy Thursday buns and avkotes (bread-cup) were baked and eggs were dyed usually in red but sometimes in yellow. The traditional way of dyeing eggs was with onion leaves, yellow daisies, yarrow, with special seaweeds, various roots such as wild rubia also known as rizari, which were thrashed and boiled in water.
Flaounes. Holy Saturday in all of Cyprus is dedicated to kneading and baking the Easter food par excellence, the flaounes (cheese pies). Flaounes are intricately linked with Easter in Cyprus as the relevant cypriot proverb goes «no flaounes before Easter, no dowry before the wedding». The preparation for kneading the flaounes started on Holy Friday. The grated cheese was mixed with eggs, after adding proportionally the leaven, mastic, mahlep, black raisins and fresh mint. This knead is called foukos or fokos and was kneaded following a ritual. The leaven was added in a crosslike fashion to the flour at five points, as many as the nails hammered in the body of Christ.
“See ‘Lambri’ (Pascha), most brilliant…”
Wheat (in the form of bread) and egg (symbol of perpetuity and rebirth of life) complete the Paschal and prosperous symbolism of Greek Pascha. Milky cookies and bagels with sesame (symbolizing the passions of Christ such as: cross-buns, crown of Christ, the flagellated hands of the Groom, Pascha cross with red egg) Christ bagels, tsoureki, avkotes in the shape of small baskets in which red eggs are placed) Pascha poulles (cross bagel) milky bread (daktylies) and cakes as well as other baked delicacies with cheese such as flaounes, that make Greek Pascha very tasty! Among these are various “cheese round pies” that filled Pascha tables throughout the Greek Isles and Cyprus. They come in various shapes and patterns and look like a pie, Pascha pie similar to flaounes. Flaounes are the most characteristic Pascha food of Cyprus. Their filling (of grated cheese, the best of which come from Pafos, kneaded with eggs (and to make them more red, partridge eggs are used) lots of spices such as mahlep, mastic, fresh mint, cinnamon, black raisins) is called foukos. The pastry for the wrapping of the flaounes is made fluffy by using the best ingredients such as milk, eggs, butter, and oil. To make the flaounes, the pastry was flattened into small pies in a square, triangular or round shape that were filled with foukos. The name flaounes comes from an ancient greek word “flao” which means to crush or from the word «palathe» a pie with dried fruits. In Pafos, «paskies» (from Pascha = Easter) a type of flaounes containing meat, were consumed all during the week of Bright Week.
Kalo Pascha or Happy Easter