Thanks to some serendipitous travel planning, we arrived in Larnaca, Cyprus, on the eve of Epiphany. In the Greek Orthodox community in Cyprus, the annual Epiphany celebration is their most important religious holiday of the year.
It occurs on January 6th, as in – “On the twelfth day of Christmas – la la la la laaaa.” As travelers, we always thank the Three Princes of Serendip when they enable us to see these colorful, local celebrations.
Devotees gather with their families at the St. Lazarus Church in Larnaca to take part in the ceremony, and walk in the religious procession to the sea.
For most, Epiphany is a serious affair …
… but for these two altar boys – not so much. If their mothers saw them goofing off for their girlfriends, there would be hell to pay … maybe literally.
Larnaca is a small town, and anyone who can march doesn’t miss an opportunity to strut their stuff.
Festivals like Epiphany give us a chance to delve into the local culture, and truth be told, they’re a great place to people watch. For instance, we now know where Santa goes to decompress and catch some rays after Christmas.
Of course, the highlight of the procession was the Archbishop and his entourage. Their vestments were beautiful, and we walked along with them to take in the all the intricate details.
The procession ended on a seaside dock on the promenade. White doves were released, and the Bishop threw the Holy Cross into the cold Mediterranean to be retrieved by divers. It’s a great honor to find the cross, but I have a mental image of some less-than-charitable underwater wrestling which would not be sanctioned by the Bishop. Luckily, he was topside.
It was a wonderful day out, and we finished with a feast of Cypriot delicacies: corn on the cob, and cotton candy.
James hopefully Santa didn’t see the altar boys or they will be on the naughty list for sure!
I was intrigued by the throwing of the cross into the cold water to celebrate Epiphany. Do you suppose in Eastern European countries farther north, where jumping into the ice water to celebrate Epiphany happens, that it originated from the cross throwing practice?
It certainly could have Sue. As best as I can tell, in the Greek Orthodox Church, the cross and water represents the Baptism of Christ. So baptism in ice water works. But, as you know, over the centuries religious ceremonies get pretty convoluted, so it’s hard to know. I know that jumping in freezing cold water would be a religious experience for me (As you and Dave may find out next year!!). ~James
Perhaps the experience will leave us forever changed…spiritually and possibly physically for that matter! Sue
I really enjoy these festivals – we don’t really do festivals in the UK!
It’s always nice to stumble into a fun, local festival Andrew. I do remember a summer weekend in the Cotswolds and a nice village fête. I don’t remember the occasion but of course it involved lots of beer. And our B&B was perfectly located to enjoy the festivities. ~James
Very cool post. One of my favorite parts of travel is to get to experience festivals. I love the photo of the priests.
Thanks Jeff. We never plan on attending festivals. In fact, because of full hotels and lots of crowds, we plan around them. So it’s always a treat to get to see one that we stumble into. ~James
Looks like a very special time to be there! (Love the picture of those cheeky altar boys 🙂 ).
I’ve always thought we could do more to mark an end to the Christmas season that just sort of petering out with the sales. It’s somehow very satisfying to see someone, somewhere doing just that.
I’m with you Bronwyn. Maybe it’s just the completionist in me, but holidays that seem to drag on and on get tiresome. Thanks to retailers, Christmas starts in October and ends in February. It was funny that on the day after Epiphany, the works crews were out in Larnaca removing the Christmas decorations. It actually felt good to breath a mental sigh of relief and say, “OK, it’s back to normal.”
They’ve been starting early in Singapore, too – but the moment Christmas Day is over they tear it all down in favour of Spring Festival decorations, which haste is a tad unseemly to me. A week or two after Christmas to let things draw to a proper (and defined) close is nice.
I love hearing about all the different celebrations and traditions on Jan 6. Lovely pictures – lots of blue which seems perfect for Cyprus.
Thanks Lynda. I had always heard of Epiphany, but had never been able to experience it. And Larnaca was the perfect small town to be able to see it. The celebrations were fun, and the people-watching great. ~James
Overall it looks like a solemn procession, judging from the faces of the priests and the entourage. I like your sense of humor about Santa. So when you can’t find him in the North Pole, go to Cyprus! 🙂
Thanks Bama. This was THE Archbishop of Cyprus, so most folks were on their best behavior. But what you don’t see in the photos are the kids in the background just being kids and having a great time. In fact, if it hadn’t been 10AM, I’m sure Santa would’ve been drinking a beer. ~James
I was in Cyprus for work in 2012 but didn’t see too much of the island. Inspired by this post to re-visit 🙂
We didn’t get to the Turkish side Suzanne, but what we saw of the Greek side was very nice. The historic area on Nicosia was very cool. ~James
My Dad did his National Service in Nicosia so I’d love to visit there 🙂
Sure you didn’t yell at those altar boys, James, and say, “Hey, look this way!” I know how people behave when the paparazzi are around. Also, love Santa. 🙂 –Curt
Curt there was no way I was going to upstage the two cuties these boys were checkin’ out in the crowd. Altar boys or no, they’re still teenage boys. ~James
Ah, I was an altar boy myself, once upon a time…
Wonderful post. One year we stumbled on the Busker’s Festival in Nova Scotia. What a riot, especially when Steve got dragged into the fun. I have some great photos of that. Thanks for bringing back those memories!!! Corn on the cob and cotton candy – what an odd mix!
Thanks Laura. It’s always nice to stumble into these local festivals. Normally, we don’t plan on them because hotels are full, it’s hard to find a place to stay. So when we stumble into a festival that we didn’t plan on, it’s the best. This one was fun because it was so colorful and very small town. ~James
I managed to find a very small scale procession of kings in the Algarve, with a bit of a twist! After chucking around their bonbons to the locals, they caught the ferry across to Spain and did it all over again 🙂
I’m sure that retrieving a cross has a deeper meaning, but bonbons sound good to me. And taking the celebration on the road (or more appropriately, the water) sounds like a great way to get the message out there. ~James
What a great celebration! Love it.
This really was a nice, colorful, and low key celebration. It was much nicer than a huge crowd in a big city. ~James
Although we haven’t done the international traveling that you two have, we were fortunate to have had the experience of being in Mexico during the Easter season…very moving. Great post as always James! 🙂