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Easter: one long whirl of tradition

Here in Cyprus, it’s Easter that’s the most wonderful time of the year! One long whirl of tradition, celebration, and reunion, Easter is a beloved national holiday which sees families flood back home in anticipation of this special time…

After the austerities of Lent (nistia, or fasting, is widely practised on the island, and many of the faithful happily renounce meat and dairy for the 50-day period), Easter is a bit of a blow-out, both in terms of celebration and fare. Over the last few weeks, you’ll have noticed preparations getting underway: bells tolling at odd hours of day; mountains of wood materialising for the lambraja, or Easter bonfire, in front of each church; tapered candles appearing in the aisles of your local Alphamega Hypermarket in readiness for the passing of the holy light from hand to hand (and, eventually, to home, where a cross is smoked on the lintel as a blessing for the year ahead).

Come the big day, the festivities all boil down to the three essentials: family, fun, and – most importantly – food! Because what would a true Cypriot Easter be without the mountains of flaounes, dishes of mageiritsa soup, and platters of succulent souvla?

While Easter in the UK is all about the hot cross buns (if you’re an expat with a craving for a taste of home, check out Alphamega’s version – they’re just like mum makes!), here in Cyprus the fare is far more varied – both in taste and selection. On Saturday night, the fast is broken post-midnight service with a bowl of mageiritsa: a lightly-flavoured soup consisting of rice, chicken liver, dill, and egg. And by Sunday morning, preparations are in full swing, red-dyed eggs (get your colour from your local Hypermarket) cracked against each other while the first of the flaounes are consumed…

For weeks now, these cheesy pastries will have been in the making; whole families often spending a riotous afternoon joyfully kneading and baking. Made to be shared, any foreigner will probably have been gifted several of these over the last few days. If not, a quick trip to your local Alphamega will remedy the issue: ready-made flaounes – plain, raisin, or packed with anari cheese – are all hand-cooked by the in-house bakers who know just how to add that touch of home-made love to their wares; from their family to yours.

Lastly, if there’s one food more associated with local Easters than flaounes, it has to be souvla. After 50-days of relative veganism, there’s nothing quite as sumptuous as a juicy piece of lamb cooked over hot coals! If you haven’t already been invited to (or are hosting) a local get-together, why not pop down to your Alphamega butcher for the best cuts of lamb? You can pick up all the added meaty essentials (wine-smoked sausages, stuffed turkey fillet, pork tenderloin, and British Angus chuck) while you’re there. Top it all off with a bottle or three of a delectable local vintage, and you’ve got yourself a truly Cypriot Easter feast. Kalo Pascha!

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