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Expat Exchange - Christmas in Cyprus
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Nissi Beach in Ayia Napa, Cyprus


Christmas in Cyprus

By Joshua Wood, LPC

William Russell
William Russell

Summary: Learn how people celebrate Christmas and the New Year in Cyprus - traditions, food, church, gift exchange and more.

The holiday season in Cyprus is a heartwarming blend of age-old traditions and festive cheer. Expats and digital nomads spending their first Christmas and New Year's on the island will discover a captivating mix of local customs and holiday festivities that reflect the island's rich cultural heritage.

Christmas and New Year's Celebrations in Cyprus

In Cyprus, Christmas is not just a day but a season, with celebrations starting well before December 25th and lasting until Epiphany on January 6th. The Cypriot spirit is characterized by hospitality and warmth, which shines through in the way people celebrate the holidays. Homes and streets are adorned with lights and decorations, creating a magical atmosphere that invites everyone to join in the festivities.

Local Traditions and Festive Events

Leading up to Christmas, towns and villages across Cyprus come alive with events such as carol singing, parades, and live Nativity scenes. One of the most anticipated figures is Ayios Vasilis, the Greek equivalent of Santa Claus, who brings gifts to children on New Year's Eve rather than Christmas. This reflects the importance of New Year's Day in Cyprus, which is also the Feast of Saint Basil.

Gift-giving is a common practice among Cypriots, with presents often exchanged on New Year's Day. Traditional gifts include sweets, toys for children, and sometimes money. The act of giving is more about the thought and the connection it represents than the value of the gift itself.

Traditional Foods and Desserts

Food plays a central role in Cypriot Christmas and New Year's celebrations. Families gather around tables laden with dishes such as stuffed turkey, souvla (barbecued meat), and a variety of local delicacies. Desserts are particularly significant, with treats like melomakarona (honey cookies) and kourabiedes (almond shortbread cookies) being holiday staples. On New Year's, a special cake called Vasilopita is served, with a hidden coin inside that brings luck to the person who finds it in their slice.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

Christmas Eve in Cyprus is often a time for final preparations and anticipation. Many attend midnight church services to celebrate the birth of Christ. These services are well-attended, with people of all ages coming together in a communal expression of faith and joy. Christmas Day itself is typically spent with family, enjoying a festive meal and the company of loved ones.

Church Attendance

Religion plays a significant role in Cypriot culture, and church attendance spikes during the holiday season. Many locals attend services on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, with some also participating in the Divine Liturgy on New Year's Day to honor Saint Basil. The churches, adorned with Christmas decorations, provide a serene and reflective space for worship and celebration.

Notable Towns and Neighborhoods

Certain towns and neighborhoods in Cyprus are renowned for their Christmas markets, decorations, and festivities. Nicosia, the capital, is particularly festive, with its streets lined with lights and seasonal displays. Limassol's marina area becomes a hub of holiday activity, hosting markets where one can find handcrafted gifts, local sweets, and warm drinks. The mountain villages, with their stone houses and cobbled streets, offer a more traditional experience, often featuring live reenactments of the Nativity.

For expats and digital nomads, experiencing Christmas and New Year's in Cyprus is an opportunity to immerse themselves in the island's festive customs and warm community spirit. From the twinkling lights and heartfelt carols to the sumptuous feasts and joyous gatherings, the holiday season in Cyprus is a time of enchantment and celebration that is sure to create lasting memories.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.


William Russell
William Russell

William Russell
William Russell

Nissi Beach in Ayia Napa, Cyprus

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