A public or bank holiday (sing Yiorti)
Yiortes in Cyprus are remarkable as almost every one has it’s own special method of celebration to which one is required to adhere, however bizarre or illogical. Lemming-like the Cypriots duplicate every year these curious behaviours with a Pavlovian gusto that speaks of deeply buried compulsion somewhere in their collective psyche.
One occasionally wonders if a Cypriot child were at birth adopted by a family from – for example – France, would he or she still have the urge to hurl water at people during Kataklismos instinctively or is it in fact learned behaviour and thus (hopefully) easier to eradicate.
Whilst the drinking to excess and the eating souvla is generally standard to all holidays, should the visitor wish to indulge in these routine variations to the usual grind on the island of Aphrodite, here are a few yiortes and the basic rules for joining in if so desired.
Kataklismos – This festival is a celebration of the biblical floods which Noah and his family survived by building the ark.
Accordingly you should throw water over people by the bucketful and then yell with laughter. Alternatively, buy huge, battery powered water pistols with a capacity of at least a litre and the ability to deliver said capacity in less than thirty seconds the happy recipient of your attentions. Use this to pump water onto/into anything or anyone that takes your fancy. Any target is acceptable as long as you do NOT soak the fougou (alias barbeque) as then no one will be happy with you at all.
Katharay Theftera – The beginning of the lentern (pre-Easter) fast.
Go out into the fields and eat vegetables - although in reality the tradition is that once again one fires up the fougou and enjoys kalamare (squid) over charcoal.
Curiously the Orthodox Church – whose festival this is – state that kalamare is unacceptable during the fast as it is not an appropriate food for fasting based on the customary rules. This is democratically ignored by the locals who pitch in with gusto, clogging the local fields and minor roads with traffic as they struggle to get away from it all, but together, at the same time, in the same way and frequently in the same places if the chaos at Capo Grecko and areas of Troodos is anything to go by.
Certain outdoor party games are also played but these are best both explained and enjoyed whilst totally plastered in preparation for the long drive home.
The concept of “any excuse for a party” is not necessarily alien to the author, but the slave-like complicity in this essentially flawed concept is borderline bizarre.
Frankly, steering clear of the inebriated chaos is probably best and safest. If you want to eat your veggies in the open air that much, have a packet of crisps with your beer in the garden.
Ecissiochto Octovriou – The “No”.
In true Cypriot patriotic fashion this is a Greek holiday that is celebrated on this most Hellenic isle. It is the day that the Greeks said a vigorous, spirited and highly commendable “No” to Mussolini’s ultimatum to allow the (at least initially) partial occupation of Greece for “strategic purposes”. From the usually verbose Greeks, the brevity of this one-word broadside is indeed worthy of praise so possibly we should accept this as appropriate matter for celebration in itself.
But we do note that a sovereign nation’s celebration of another sovereign nation’s laconic style without learning anything from it is something both curious and ultimately regrettable.
The opening of the border with northern Cyprus by the occupying power in order to encourage tourism from the Republic of Cyprus to the occupied north and the illegal “TRNC” would have possibly been a pretty good time for the people of Cyprus to have given their own vigorous and to the point “No”. But it did not happen and by now, do bouli epetaxan (The bird has flown).
So just say “zido Ellatha” and swig ouzo – you will be just fine.
Protis Aprilliou - April the First.
On this date in 1955, the EOKA struggle for freedom began, although they might have been wiser to wait until the following day in order to have been taken more seriously.
More so than many political holidays, although not exclusively so, this day is distinguished by the ambiguously named phenomenon of the paralyse/parelyse.
The first word means “a state of paralysis” and the second “a parade” although unless you are paying attention you might miss the difference unless you tumble to it contextually. Usually either word means both – when referring to the movement of traffic on the roads. The parades are excellent examples of community spirit, but none the less paralyse the normal movement on the roads around Cyprus as every town and village will have it’s parade and multiple Cyprus-style diversions will be found by any individuals daft enough to venture out of doors unless on foot.
Major or minor, roads will be closed and those who are disorganised enough to have business that requires road travel (such as the fire, police or ambulance services) can just shut up and wait or else drop by tomorrow.
In all cases, though, your need to follow the leader will be simplified if you just remember the three “s” of any Cypriot celebration and then just follow the pack, think “Shorts, Souvla and Sozzled” and anticipate no difficulties.