Christmas in Nicosia! It’s a fascinating mix for the culturally curious traveller. The contemporary, boutique lifestyle of the best hotels in Nicosia enjoyed alongside traditional Cyprus festivities.
From the cool pastel tones and gleaming designer chic of a classic Richard Eames chair, hotel guests may also comfortably let their senses wander beyond the hotel balcony window. Throughout Nicosia, as well as in the towns and villages across the island, local communities are preparing for a typical Cyprus Christmas.
Sweet aroma of rich savoury bakes
As the days count down, perhaps you may pick up the tantalising, sweet aroma of baked “Kourabiedes” and “Melomakarona” mingling with the mild December air.
Kourabiedes are a type of light shortbread, typically made with almonds and shaped into crescents or balls, then baked till slightly golden. It’s also traditional for the rich savoury bakes to be flavoured with brandy, such as Metaxa – a fine Greek spirit made from aged, cask strength brandy with Muscat grape wine – vanilla, or rose water.
Melomakarona are traditional Christmas honey cookies made with flour or semolina, cognac, cinnamon and olive oil. In a final mouth-watering touch the cookies are filled with dates and nuts, and then immersed in hot syrup made of honey and sugar.
Offered as a thank-you to carol singers
When local carol singers gather together and go door to door on Christmas Eve, they are often offered kourabiedes and melomakarona as a thank-you for their vocal efforts! It’s a very long standing tradition indeed, which is believed to date back to the island’s Byzantine era (330 – 1191AD) or even as far back as Ancient Greece (C 800BC).
It’s known that children would visit their neighbours and sing while carrying small wooden boats in honour of Dionysos, mythic god of wine and festivity. Today on Christmas Eve, Cypriot children are more likely to be heard singing carols, known as “Calanda” and “Good evening, the Magi”, “Jingle Bells” and “Koleda”, which is mostly sung in northern Greece.
Decorated with the symbol of the cross
Another baked savoury, which is actually prepared by hand-kneading on Christmas Eve, is “Gennopitta”, a special sweet yeast bread – also known as “Christopsomo” as it’s usually decorated with the symbol of the cross – and eaten on Christmas Day.
It’s a reminder that Christmas in Cyprus is still traditionally regarded in parts of the island as primarily a religious celebration and is preceded by a period of fasting. For many Cypriots, devotions for the festive season are from the Feast of St. Nicholas on 6th December until the Feast of Epiphany on January 6th.
Looking to stay in town for a traditional Cyprus Christmas?
Hypnos by bed N’mix in the city centre of Nicosia!
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