Getting ready for Christmas
The Heartland villages put on their Christmas decorations to celebrate the happiest season of the year. Traditional carols and Christmas tunes are heard on every corner; houses are filled with aromas of Christmas delights, twinkling lights glow everywhere and a joyful atmosphere wafts the winding alleys. The birth of the Holy Infant brings love, peace and joy to our world, and Cypriots cherish the magic feeling of these merry days.
In each household Christmas preparations start well ahead of time, keeping family members busy as bees. In the past, men would slaughter a pig which had been raised especially for this purpose. They would then put it in a cauldron of hot water to remove its hairs. Once the pig was clean, the separation of the various parts of the animal followed. They would make ham, posyrti (bacon), sausages and much more. The sausages were hung over the “tsiminia” (fireplace) to be cooked slowly. The other parts would be half-baked and kept in “koumnia” (clay pots) to be preserved along with “lard” (fat). The pig’s head and legs were used to make “Zalatina” (a jelly appetizer).
Women’s preparations would reach a peak with baking a variety of festive breads that are to be consumed by Epiphany. Christmas breads are specially treated, sifted twice and sprinkled with sesame seeds; that’s why they are called “sisamota”. They are decorated with a cross, the symbol of Christianity. At this time of the year, the oven is always kept warm. The abundant Christmas pastry types require time, dedication and love: “Christopsoma”, “Daktylies” or “Koumoula”, “Gennopites” or “Poulles” are merely a few of the pastries of the season.
Christmas sweets and desserts also abound. Every house stocks up large quantities of “Melomakarona”, “Kourambiedes” and “Foinikota” to treat its guests. “Melomakarona” are cookies made of cinnamon, nuts, a tad bit of orange and lots of syrup and honey. “Kourambiedes” are small almond cakes coated with sugary icing, while “foinikota” are similar to “kourambiedes” but stuffed with dates.
Being a British colony for decades, Cyprus saw western customs being introduced on the island, such as the Christmas tree, stuffed turkey and the Christmas cake. Stuffed turkey and Christmas cake have been adjusted to the local cuisine and are now made with local ingredients. The Christmas cake is made with local almonds, walnuts and delicious Cyprus spoon sweets, while the stuffing of the turkey is made of turkey or chicken liver, pork minced meat, rice, almonds, orange slices and raisins.
On Christmas day, the lunch table is always festive, ready to welcome the extended family, featuring turkey along with numerous traditional dishes: koupepia (stuffed vine leaves), makaronia tou fournou (a deep layer of pasta, Bolognese and béchamel sauce), souvla (pork or lamb meat grilled on a long skewer over a charcoal barbecue) and much more.
Christmas time is always special and if you are looking for new ways to make memories with your loved ones, make sure you visit the Heartland villages. There, the locals will share traditions that are near and dear.
And if you are a Christmas Market fun, do not miss our Cyprus Christmas Villages in Polis Chrysochous, Kalopanagiotis, Kyperounta, Fikardou, Agros, Kalavasos and Deryneia. Stroll around the various stalls, taste traditional Christmas delicacies, choose handicrafts for Christmas gifts, take part in workshops and enjoy yourself to the sounds of Christmas songs.