Basics about Cypriot people and culture 2

In today’s article on basics of Cypriot people and culture, we’ll be talking about religion. While this is usually not the most interesting of subjects it is extremely important in Cyprus, due to the very clear delimitation between the two factions, and how religion has played into that.

Seventy-eight percent are part of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church and are mostly Greek Cypriot, eighteen percent are Muslim Turkish Cypriots, and the remainder four percent is made up of less represented religions, mainly of which are the Maronites and the Armenian Apostolics.

As it is in most other countries, rural villages have a much higher religious service attendance, especially amongst women when compared to the men, also interesting to note is that the elderly family members are usually the ones on whom the fulfillment of religious obligations fall, on behalf of the entire family, so that’s an interesting concept.

In urban areas and amongst educated Cypriots, church attendance is as expected, lower, however it should be noted that for most Greek Cypriots, religion has a very home-centric feel. It’s about conducting rituals at home, adoration of icons and strict observance of certain ‘festivities’ marked by the Orthodox calendar, such as fasting periods or eating fish on certain days.

For those not accustomed with Orthodox services, the religious services tend to be long but rather colourful with singing, incense and rather elaborate vestments, depending on the occasion. You will not find statues in these churches, however there is veneration of icons.

As far as religious buildings go, considering the history of the islands you will be able to find many famous Byzantine buildings that are still used and actually are locked to visitors, part of the experience of visiting being that you’ll have to find the key-keeper – who isn’t always the priest – and then leave a small donation to the church or monastery once you’re done, there are plates or boses provided for this purpose so as to not hand the money directly to the key-keeper, monk or priest. One other thing to follow when visiting Orthodox religious buildings is that you shouldn’t point to icons, nor stand with your backs to them and also women shouldn’t wear very short dresses and should have their head covered, while men shouldn’t walk in shorts or sleeveless shirts.