Cyprus in December takes on a festive appearance. From the start of the month people decorate their houses for Christmas, sometimes with bright displays of flashing lights. The municipal electricians put up lights and other decorations around the towns, particularly in the shopping areas. A walk along a sea front or high street reveals a variety of Christmas decorations, both sacred and secular. A main feature is often a life-sized Nativity scene, or a tall Christmas tree.
The weather in Cyprus in December seems chilly to those of us who live here. Houses are not always heated well. Central heating is still fairly uncommon, although most hotels have adequate heating. High ceilings and marble floors are not efficient from the point of view of conserving heat. Moreover, in many of the older houses, windows and doors do not fit well.
However, to visitors from cooler climes, the December weather in Cyprus seems mild and pleasant. Temperatures are often around 15-18C in the daytime, with a fair amount of sunshine. Grey days are unusual, and rain is usually brief, followed by plenty of bright, sunny weather.
Festivals in Cyprus in December
The only festival of any significance is Christmas Day. While some Eastern Orthodox groups celebrate in January, the Greek Orthodox majority in Cyprus celebrate Christmas Day along with the Western church, on December 25th. Before Christmas there is a period of forty days’ fasting over Advent, at least in theory. However this is not so obvious as the Lenten fast which many people in Cyprus still observe.
The Christmas festive period in Cyprus is quite lengthy in comparison to many other countries. Most shops and supermarkets are open on Christmas Eve (December 24th), but government offices close. This includes the Post Office. It’s not unusual for cards or parcels posted internationally to Cyprus, supposedly in plenty of time for Christmas, to arrive several days into January.
Boxing Day (December 26th) is a public holiday too, and the vast majority of shops are closed. Most will open again on December 27th, but many businesses and some smaller shops remain closed from Christmas Eve through to about January 2nd or even later.
Christmas is a family time in Cyprus. Hotels provide festive meals for tourists and people who do not want to cook, but it’s vital to book in advance. Traditional food includes roast turkey or pork and the typical trimmings that Brits tend to produce. It may also include unexpected dishes such as small songbirds roasted whole.
Families used to exchange presents on New Year’s Day rather than Christmas Day. But in recent years Christmas has become more of a focus for gift-giving. Many children in Cyprus believe in Santa Claus, who leaves either stockings full of sweets, or larger gifts. Church services are important too, with most churches offering a morning service on Christmas Day.
New Year’s Eve is the last day of December. It is not officially a public holiday but some shops close early, and some are still closed as part of the lengthy Christmas break. As with elsewhere in Europe, people stay up late with parties and lots of food. At midnight several people set off fireworks.