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Christmas comes alive outside the city

feature gina main polis packed for the christmas fair (tiana gillett)

Seven of the more isolated communities have put on a good festive show

Among the many events for the festive season, one of the highlights are the Christmas villages supported by the deputy ministry of tourism.

Operating for the second consecutive year, the focus is to breathe some Christmas cheer into seven of the more isolated communities that may otherwise be forgotten now that the tourists have mostly left the island with the arrival of winter.

In all the villages, there are wooden stalls set up selling food, drink and Christmas gifts. Tourist shops and restaurants have stayed open, hoping to get some extra revenue during what is usually a dead season. And on the weekends, at least, there is a wide variety of entertainment.

feature gina dherynia christmas village
Dherynia Christmas village

The villages opened for visitors last weekend and are operating until January 15.

Starting in the north-east of the island in Dherynia, travellers will find the sole Christmas village of the Famagusta district. Stalls shaped as small wooden houses are open daily from 11am to 8pm where vegan foods and sweets are on sale alongside traditional products and mulled wine but also handicrafts and even dog accessories.

feature gina the festively decorated strawberry in dherynia
The festively decorated strawberry in Dherynia

“The main square is decorated in lovely Christmas decorations and it was really nice to be able to get into the Christmas spirit at this little market, in an area that isn’t frequented too much by tourists,” 33-year-old Peter Michael said after visiting the village this week.

Visitors can also attend pyrography demonstrations, learn how to make Christmas candles and wreaths, or even bake traditional New Year’s bread. On specific days, you may be offered a complimentary Cypriot coffee or for the most daring, a shot of Zivania – a must-have on a winter night.

And don’t forget to take a photo with the large strawberry wearing a Santa Claus hat opposite Panayia chapel. There, a playground area is also available for the youngest guests.

Moving on to the opposite end of the island near the Akamas peninsula, Polis Chrysochous was packed with locals and tourists alike last weekend

“My expectations were really low before I went,” said Raphaella Christou, 59. “You just don’t associate Polis with Christmas. But I’ve never seen it so full. There were traffic jams to get into the town.”

Like Dherynia, the central square has the wooden stalls, but Christou said the whole central part of the town was decorated and the old stone shops fronts looked really festive.

“It was just a lovely experience.”feature gina stone fronted shops in polis decorated for christmas (tiana gillett)

A favourite among children is the Santa house and elves’ workshop, and on weekends the programme also includes magic shows as well as musical performances, street parties and dancing lessons. In addition to weekends the Christmas stalls are also open between 11am and 4pm on weekdays.

Other free events include a museum tour, a Karagkiozis show in the holiday spirit or even a backgammon tournament.

Nicosians who cannot afford a longer drive should definitely visit the mediaeval themed Christmas village in Fikardou, a Unesco heritage site. To assist travel to and from the Pitsilia village, the local community has arranged a special bus route every Saturday and Sunday throughout the holidays.

At the fairytale-like scenery, 52 days of Christmas events await children and adults for the first time in Fikardou. From treasure hunting, archery, pottery and ceramic decoration workshops to jugglers, stilt walkers, swordsmen and fire shows, visitors are able to enjoy themselves in beautiful surroundings. Local delicacies are also on sale on weekdays between 11am to 4pm and weekends until 6pm.

Perhaps the most Christmassy of the villages is the picturesque village of Kalopanayiotis, nestled in the lower Troodos mountains.

feature gina kalo panayiotis, the perfect christmas village
Kalopanayiotis, the perfect Christmas village

“This is the perfect Christmas village with its well-maintained houses nestled in the hillside and the wonderfully renovated Casale Panayiotis,” a Nicosia resident said.

Located at an altitude of 700m above sea level and only 70 kilometres from Nicosia and Limassol, the wooden huts have been set up by the ancient Ayios Lambadistis monastery but are open only on weekends. The municipality has made sure to comprise a diverse holiday programme that promotes the village. To this end, a walking tour and a bus tour are scheduled in the coming weeks.

Pony rides are taking place every weekend in the Christmas village of Kyperounta. There, visitors can attend workshops on how to make healthy (and not so healthy) delicacies while enjoying holiday music as well as dance and theatrical performances. Apart from the wooden stalls selling goodies, there is also a Christmas edition escape room for children and adults who appreciate a little mystery.

feature gina crowded polis last weekend (tiana gillett)
Crowded polis last weekend (Tiana Gillett)

A bit further, in the village famous for roses cultivation, Agros also offers chocolate lovers a treat this year through a chocolate making workshop a day before Christmas Eve. Christmas cookies and Christmas wine creations as well as arts and crafts workshops are also part of the extensive programme for this year’s Christmas village.

The seventh Christmas village is in the small community of Kalavasos, Larnaca, home to just 900 residents which is ready to give us all a history lesson. Among the series of events and workshops, is also a history of the Greek language lecture on December 17, while infused with a bit of alcohol the Cypriot wine in history presentations will impress even the worst grinch. If you prefer walking and learning, a guided tour of the village is also available on the first Sunday of January starting from the Agnooumenos Pavlos Neocleous Square with a visit to the Church of Panagia Titiotissa, the mosque, the sculpture park of Michalis Mozoras, the olive mill and the water mill.

The Christmas villages will operate until January 15. For the specific programmes of the seven locations visit www.christmasvillages.com.cy and for Kalo Panayiotis at https://kalopanayiotis.com.cy/

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