When you go to Omodos, at nights of Holy Week in order to watch the Holy Passions closely, your soul will flood from emotion and jubilation. All religious people jam- packed fill the church of Timiou Stavrou (Holy Cross) of Omodous every evening.
We will refer to Holy Thursday and holy Friday nights in more detail, because there is the heaviest and funereal atmosphere and to Holy Saturday too.
Everything is covered with black clothes in the church. The pictures in the iconostasis and in the walls, the hieratic throne, the Holy Cross.
The church butler reads the fourteen Gospels to everyone and after the dreary news, “Simeron kremate epi xilou o en idasi tis gis kremmasas”(today He is hanged on a wooden cross), that is heard by the voice of Fyti, the right chanter, the crucified is taken around the church during the night. There are three abutments in the middle of the church. The middle one for the Cross and the Crucified, the right for Virgin Mary and the left winger for Ioannis.The congregation reverentially passes and bows to the Cross of the Son of God. Late at night after the end the Crucifixion vespers, at 11a.m. the young girls are gathered in the church carrying flowers such as roses, pinks and other spring seasonal and they decorate the epitaph carefully and elegantly so it can be ready for holy Friday.
On holy Friday morning, the removal of Christ from the Cross takes place in the holy service. The Cross and the other two pictures take their place in the sanctuary , while the still naked canopy of the Epitaph enters in the middle of the temple, in order for the picture that shows Christ’ burial to be placed above him. young men in groups , both girls and boys come out in the upper verandas of the old synodical of the Abbey and with a sad look they begin to chant the Lamentation of Virgin Mary, while a lot of people , stand still in the big courtyard of the church and listen to them .
“Ade mantato skotino the mera lipimeni epkiasan ton giouli mou the mina orfanemeni. (Listen to the bad news and look at the dark day in which my son has been taken away and I am left an orphan).
‘San ton listi ton pernousi san to fonia ton dixnoun tze ston Pilato pernoun ton ompros tou ton estinoun ‘(He is considered to be a robber, he is shown as a murderer and he is taken to Pilatos, he is put in front of him).
Thkio karfika tou valasin pano sta thkio tou sierka tzie alla thkio tou mpixasin pano sta thkio tou pothkia “(they put him two pins on his arms and two more on his legs).
With the end of this song, Christians as sad as they are now, go home, in order to return to the church again in the evening, where they will watch the evening prayer of Holy Friday, in an atmosphere of piety, devoutness and mourning.
Two big groups of young persons and old stand around the Epitaph and chant the “I Zoe en tafo, Axion esti os alithos and the e genea pase.
Young girls rain the Epitaph with merrehes and with blossoms of flowers in small baskets, as soon as the following is heard by the chorus:
“E’ranan ton tafo e myrofore myra.”
The epitaph’s processions takes places in the streets of the village.Four young persons raise the canopy and take him out from the southern door of the temple.
During the procession, the escort stops in the points where there was or is a tap of water, the chanters say a prayer, and the people pass – one by one under the canopy. With the end of the procession, they enter once again in the church, where the evening prayer of H. Friday is continued for a little while.
The young men of Omodos turn on kouzalo, with a lot of woods that they had gathered before early the afternoon of Holy Saturday.
All the women of the village turn on the oil lamps and candles, before the bells for the Resurrection ring, in the tombs of their dead relatives, because it is believed that with Christ Resurrection the souls will be brought up one day.
Manners and Customs of Cross Saint day in Omodos
Many of these manners and customs are related with the day of feast of Cross (Stavrou). From old years the day of Rise of Honest Cross (ypsosi timiou stavrou), on 14th September, one of the biggest feasts in Cyprus take place. The manners and customs are many that are closely connected with the ceremony of Rise (ypsosi).
In the narthex of the Church in a special platform, a big baptistery full of water is placed. Just after doxology, a procession is made with great splendour. Labarum, cherubim and the chorus of chanters are ahead, and the priest follows who carries the Holy and life giver Cross in his shoulders, the Metropolitan, the celebrants and a lot of religious people. They baptise the cross there in the baptistery. The priests hold merehes full of rosewater and rain the waters. At the same time the priests with the basil, that the people bring , shower the crowd , while all together, clergymen and laymen, chant Soson Kyrie to lao sou'(Save your people ).
It is a big aggregation, full of Christian devoutness. After the end of Rise (ypsosis), many people take ‘rise’ that is to say holy water, that became from the christening of the Cross and they put it in small bottles and keep it safe. They believe that it is miraculous and they shower their houses with it and drink it with empty stomaches. They even take basil to their houses in order to feel the holiness. Basil symbolizes that basil which always budded, in the place of Golgotha, under which the Honest Cross was.
At the day of the Cross feast , the placement of the Holy Cross is used to happen in a special platform and the Holy Kanavos (hempen rope ) is opened , that is to say the Saint Rope ,for people to bow who come from various parts of Cyprus and abroad. This takes place only on 14th September and is sometimes repeated on other saint days of the year, such as Sunday of Orthodoxy, the Stavroproskyniseos, Easter, Monday of Diakainisimou and the 1 st August.
People in Omodos believe that everything should be brilliant in the celebration of the Big Master, as the Holy Cross is said. A lot of days before, the women paint and clean their houses, in order to be spotless and ready to take their quests in. Generally the house trimming, the restaurants preparation and other public places, exceeds by far the limits of usual tastefulness. Naturally in each house there are always the famous and aromatic ‘arkatena (bread roll)’ that were made in Omodos in 1860 for the first time. The women used to and still do it to offer their quests these bread rolls.
The feast of Cross apart from its religious character, it has also a commercial character, as it used to happen at old times. It used to be and it still is a big commercial feast, in which every visitor finds everything , from various merchandises, jewelleries of various types , various games for children, even animals and whatever anyone can imagine.
In the frames of festive events of the feast of Cross in the old times , the period 1935, exhibitions of embroideries, animals and flowers were established , as various athletic games . Today some of these events were transferred and were performed on the day of Dekapentavgoustou (15 th August), in the frames of Lineon Omodos .
The transport network development and the plethora of transport means literally changed the majestic character and the splendour of the feast. A lot of days before the feast , not only from different parts of Cyprus, but also from abroad, a lot of people and mostly religionists were gathered in the village, in order to take part in the ceremony of Rise and in the other events. Luxurious cars, today, have replaced the then transport means, the cars and the mules, whose jockeys dressed with their fancy clothes, took care of them and made sure that they were well gaudy.
The tape players replaced the violins and the lutes, that famous violists played and created mirth and bender until dawn, among the villagers and the salesmen «. A lot of old persons still remember and recollect those beautiful and cheerful moments of genuine Cypriot tradition.
As in the old times as today in the big village square cafes and the ovens for kleftiko (meat) are maintained.
Procession of the Holy Cross
It is known, that almost every day various events take place that are related with the Cross. One of those is the procession of the holy Cross in the village, a celebration equally important with the one that takes place on 14th September. This feast takes place on Easter Tuesday and it is the day where the Master, the Holy Cross, enter in everybody’s house separately. The Holy Cross held in the Priest’s shoulders, with the escort of many other holy heirlooms of the Abbey enters in everyone’s house in order to be submitted from the pious residents, who wait for it formally dressed.
The cherubim, the chanters and the high school chorus are ahead the Cross. A lot of people, villagers and foreigners, follow the Cross. Those who have hunting arms, at the entry and exit of the Cross from their houses, are used to throwing gun fires in order to welcome it and see it off . As soon as it enters in their house, they put first incense and they turn the vigil oil on. After that they rain the Cross with rose water and bow. A Sample of deep faith of people in Omodos to their protector is the brave contribution of all the people with pecuniary sums of money, to the Church.
In Omodos you can meet all these traditional manners and customs that were referred above and many others , that are closely connected with the rural life of the Omodos residents and the religious tradition of the Monastery. Many of them are still maintained live and we call the current generation of Omodos to continue safeguarding them and maintaining them unquenchable, as he old generations created and bequeathed in it. Only then we will go ahead, if we return in the tradition of our place and experience its genuine characteristics.
In the Old times in Omodos, on the Epiphany day, people took light from the church and lit the small children up. That is to say they burnt hairs on the child’s head with this light, in four points. They also brought and still bring today, holy water in the house and the whole family drank it.
For the child
When a child was given birth, at Omodos in the old days, there used to be another person near it, apart from the mother of the infant, in order to protect it, until the mother “stavrosi”, because they believed that up to “forty days the tomb of the new mother had been open” and there was fear for the Demons to touch it , that could change their children with the newborn.
When a child suffered with shiver, in order to be cured, they made him ride on the “latch of the oven” and later to come out in the street. When someone else saw him, then the one that would laugh took the illness and the child was cured, from the shiver.
If again a child “eseliniazeto”(got crazy) for a first time, then they stabbed a knife at the place the child fell and then they dug a hole and it was believed that they found coals extinguished, which they flailed and they gave it to the child with water, in order not to ‘seliniasti’ again .
If a child had ‘pernari’ that is to say rash, then they eradicated a lily from the forest or they went to trees, that were considered to be holy and hung in them pieces from the child’s clothes and it was believed that it was cured.
At Omodos, in the old times, when they cut the child’s hair for a first time , the father put his ‘pouggi’ (wallet) ,in front of the child and what he took it was his.
For the Marriage
No marriages take place on May and the leap years, because they gave birth to leap children, whose jaw stuck out. They did not provide pork meat at the wedding, because it was believed that they would be widowed.
The wedding preparations began from the previous week and with the escort of musical instruments, they went to the fountain where they washed “the hair of the bed» and the wheat, with which they prepared the breads, the bread rolls and the resi.
Almost one week before the wedding , relatives , friends and maids of honour , went to the bride’s house , took the hair of the wedding bed and took them to the fountain , where they washed it with songs and they later brought it to the bride ‘s house, where they stretched it in order to dry out .
The first three days of the wedding it was not good sign for the couple to go out of the house, until the morning of Wednesday that the priest resolved their hoop. On Wednesday morning the bride woke up and cleaned the house, while she put all rubbish in her apron, dropping some coins in and she later went to the fountain. There she drooped them in, washed her apron and filled her water bag with water for the house.
Next Sunday, even today the married couple go to church. After the holy service friends, relatives and women from the village of the bride accompany her to her house. This Sunday, the ‘antigamos’as it is called takes place, where the quests visit the bride’s house and “spray “her that is to say they give her money (ploumizo).
When there were more than one married couples, it was not considered to be good if they began the same moment for the church, because one steps on the other, especially if the one began from a higher spot.
It was not permitted for the couple to return from the same street they went, because they «would push their footsteps “, nor for any other couple to pass that street, neither the groom to passes from the same street the bride did. This exists until today at Omodos. This is why on the way to the church for the wedding, in the village, a woman stays back, and who extinguishes the steps of the groom and bride, in order to for the married couple to be prosperous. If it rains on the wedding day, they say that the bride ate from the maerissa”(casserole).
The Groom is accompanied by his father or a narrow relative in the church, as the bride is.
The resi (type of rice they make at villages)
We will refer in detail in one of the biggest preparations of the wedding that used to be done and goes on until today at Omodos.
The resi is done from grits, which they boil in big “hartzia’ (pots) in broth mixed with pieces of lamb meat, pig, poultry and it is eaten as pihti'(congealed) soup.
Before the wheat is grind, you wash it well. This work is done by women, relatives of the bride or the groom.
In the Old times they used to put it in “panerka”(baskets) in skafes (launders), or sieves, and went to the tap or near the well and washed it.
“While the girls were going to the tap they sang”
Let’s got to the water, let’s got o the tap
To wash the resi, in order to eat at the wedding.
Let’s go, women of the village, to grind the resi
So the bride and the groom can eat, to see if they like it.
Five red handkerchiefs and one beautiful fez,
Let’s go women to wash the resi.”
When they returned home, the fresh washed wheat was unfolded in clean mats or on thick cloths, in order to get dry under the sun. Later it was put in hand mills and with the burrstone rhythm that turned, the girls restarted the song.
“Forty-five cranes and an eagle in the middle
Let’s go women to grind the wheat.
To walk a far distance, thousand of miles
Let’s altogether go to the hand mills»
Unfortunately, today, these beautiful songs are not sung, because women do not go to the fountain to wash the wheat, neither do they grind on hand mills.
We can only hear these in films or read them in books.