The date of Easter in Cyprus follows the Orthodox Calendar, which places it as the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs at the spring equinox. Public Holidays are observed on Orthodox Good Friday and Easter Monday.
Cyprus has a population of about 1.1 million, nearly 82 percent of whom follow the Greek Orthodox Church and celebrate Easter accordingly, along with a mixture of local traditions.
On Palm Sunday, leafy palm and olive branches are brought to the churches by the people, who then carry them around the church while following an icon of Christ. This is done to recall Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. The olive leaves are later pushed into little sacks to be burnt as incense in the months ahead.
On Holy Thursday, the date of the Last Supper, Cypriots bake traditional breads like flaounes and prepare dyed eggs. Flaounes are small, triangular or square-shaped loaves with cheese, eggs, mint, and optionally raisins, baked into them. They are topped with sesame seeds.
Eggs are decorated in many colours, but red predominates. The red eggs are meant to symbolise the blood of Christ. The rizari root is used for the red dye. Although Christ died on the following Friday, the death of Christ is observed “prospectively” on Holy Thursday and his burial on Friday.
On Good Friday, also called “Great Friday” in Cyprus, people bring flowers to church in the morning to decorate “epitafios” that represent the buried Christ. They cover Christ’s “coffin” in an embroidered cloth and march it through the streets in a great procession that ends back at the church.
On Holy Saturday, a midnight vigil is held to herald the Resurrection of Christ. Wood is gathered and piled up to prepare a place to burn Judas Iscariot in effigy. Later, when midnight arrives, the church bells ring out in celebration. Attendees then pass the “Holy Flame” from candle to candle, beginning with the candle of the priest. All walk home carrying their candle and saying to those they see “Christ is risen!” The traditional reply is, “He is risen indeed!” There are also fireworks displays on the way home.
On Easter Sunday, “Pascha,” there is a family feast which breaks the 40-day fast. Roast lamb, representing the Lamb of God, is a traditional main dish. Other common food items include: a lamb soup called “magiritsa,” red-dyed boiled eggs, chocolate eggs, Cyprus’ special Easter bread called “flaounes,” Greece’s special Easter bread called “tsoureki,” salads, potato chips made from Cyprus’ famous potatoes, “paskies” (mini meat pies), “tiropites” (mini cheese pies), and “koulouria,” which are sweet, well spiced biscuits.