Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Easter and other public holidays in Cyprus

It was quite a week for public holidays. April 1st is always a holiday in Cyprus: it's Greek Cypriot National Day. I don't know quite what that means, but teachers in schools are probably quite happy that they have a day off and thus avoid having any April Fool jokes played on them.

Last week, of course April 1st was also Maundy Thursday, so the schools in Cyprus were closed for the Easter break anyway. Easter came early this year, and - as happens infrequently - the Western and Eastern Easter dates coincided. Thus Good Friday was also a holiday, with many offices and businesses closed. Most of the shops were still open, in anticipation, I suppose, of the long weekend.

Saturday was a normal day - as normal as life ever is here in Cyprus, anyway - although people started setting off fireworks as soon as it got dark. Traditionally they're done at midnight, to welcome Easter. But as far as we can tell, there were fireworks from about 8pm until around 6am, when it started to get light again. I managed to sleep through most of them, but it was a sleepless night for people who happen to live near Greek Orthodox churches.

Sunday was then a major holiday; one of the two days of the year when even the bakeries (most of them) are closed. I like to go to a traditional service with Communion on Easter, so after I'd made an apple cake for lunch, I went off to St Helena's for their 9.30am service. The church was pretty full, with a fair number of visitors. There's a locum minister, who gave a fairly short sermon along the lines of the classic book 'Who moved the stone?' - pointing out that the Christian faith rests on the question of what happened to Jesus after he died. None of it was new to me, and I don't know how it struck the majority of the congregation, but it was undoubtedly sound.

And we had a good selection of Easter hymns, even though the music came from some kind of canned music contraption and was a recording of an organ rather than a piano. Afterwards I chatted to a few people I know, then Richard arrived - having been to his boat for a couple of hours - and drove me home. Since I knew we were likely to have a late lunch, I'd thawed some fruit from last summer, and made us some strawberry-peach yogurt smoothies.

Then, with the apple cake, we drove to the bilingual house church service which some good friends attend regularly. One can arrive any time from 10am onwards and there's a general informality which is quite appealing. I can read Greek even if I can't understand most of it, and I sat next to our friends' eldest daughter, who told me where I could find all the songs in the books provided. They were all rather 1980s... that selection often found in home-produced songbooks that are neither ancient nor modern. Still, I knew most of the tunes and quite like singing them on occasion. There was an excellent pianist and guitarist, and plenty of percussionists of varying abilities.

Besides, it was interesting seeing a church service with people sitting in easy chairs, children dancing with scarves with scant attention to rhythm, and other people arriving or wandering in and out. I also enjoyed having my 18-month old friend climb on me, and repeat her latest word ['moo' which is a noise made by cows, and also, according to her, by donkeys, horses and goats. Oh, and butterflies. Sheep, however, say 'baa', dogs say 'wuff', and cats apparently screech slightly.]

There was a Communion celebration, then at about 12.30 the children were gathered up, and the pastor spoke to them - with translation - for a few minutes, then they went into the kitchen for their activities, and we had a sermon, the gist of which seemed to be that we shouldn't celebrate Easter because if we're believers we know all the time that Jesus is risen. Which is true, but it seems a bit sad not to have special celebrations as extra reminders. Jesus himself celebrated Passover and other traditional festivals, after all.

I'm not really sure what the rest of the sermon was about - it was translated into English, but my mind wandered after about twenty minutes. The chair was comfortable, and I'm not an auditory kind of person. Besides, it was interesting watching other people around me. Probably only about 20 adults; there were at least as many children. It made a change to be in a church group where we were some of the oldest people present.

By about 1.45 the service part had finished and people started organising food in the kitchen. It was a sumptuous spread, and we enjoyed chatting with our friends and various others. At 4pm we and our friends left, as we'd agreed to play a game of Settlers of Catan with four of them; then we went to their house for a light supper, and in the evening played another Settlers of Catan game. I'm happy to say that I won neither.

It was a different kind of Easter; we didn't even remember to eat any chocolate, which we usually do on a Sunday. But much more relaxing eating somewhere else rather than our usual Easter roast meal and entertaining here.

Monday, of course, was another public holiday in Cyprus, as in most of the Western world (Easter Monday). A major one, where most of the shops were closed, and all the businesses (except restaurants, of course). Richard spent the day at King Malu while I had a peaceful day on my own at home. Amongst other things I completely defrosted our big freezer - something I last did in June two years ago. We're going to the UK for three weeks at the end of this week, so I had been running down the contents of the freezer anyway. I was able to fit what there was into the freezer section of our fridge-freezer, meaning that the main upright freezer can be left switched off until we return.

I did walk down to the Post Office in the afternoon, to see if there was any mail; it was quite warm (26C earlier in the day) but although there was no mail to speak of, it was a good walk; I didn't hurry, but managed the two miles there and back in half an hour.

In the evening, Richard's sailing buddy and his wife took us out to a meal at a restaurant called Mojo, which had a nice selection of dishes. Richard had a huge meal of spare ribs, chips, and salad. I had an excellent mild curry. We walked there and back too, but I doubt if that made any difference to the vast number of calories consumed...

Today is yet another holiday, for Easter Tuesday. Businesses are mostly closed, but at least some of the shops are open. Not that I need to buy anything, other than perhaps some milk and a bit of fruit.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I spent part of this easter holidays cypruswith my family