Cyprus Traditional Wedding Customs


Applicant:

Folklore Group "Ktima"

Communities Concerned - Bearers of the element:

The customs of the traditional wedding are followed by people across Cyprus. Maintaining and transmitting these customs is mainly up to new couples, their families and friends, and whether they decide to incorporate wedding traditions and customs into their wedding day celebrations. They are also kept alive by the musicians and singers of traditional music and other individuals who actively participate in carrying out the traditional wedding customs. Folklore societies, traditional dance groups and other cultural groups also play a very important role in keeping the tradition alive, contributing to the promotion and preservation of the wedding customs.

Communities of Paphos (Anarita, Yialou, Kissonerga, Kouklia, Letymbou, Mesogi, Miliou, Steni, Stroubi, Timis and Tremithousa), Folklore Group "Ktima" and other Folkloric Groups.

Domain of Intangible Cultural Heritage: 

Oral traditions

Performing arts

Social practices, rituals and festive events

Traditional craftsmanship

Date of inscription:

2016

Geographical distribution:

The customs of the traditional wedding are followed by people across Cyprus. Maintaining and transmitting these customs is mainly up to new couples, their families and friends, and whether they decide to incorporate wedding traditions and customs into their wedding day celebrations. They are also kept alive by the musicians and singers of traditional music and other individuals who actively participate in carrying out the traditional wedding customs. Folklore societies, traditional dance groups and other cultural groups also play a very important role in keeping the tradition alive, contributing to the promotion and preservation of the wedding customs.

Brief description:

In the past, there used to be a greater variety of wedding traditions and customs celebrated, though with the passage of time and for a variety of reasons, many have been abandoned. Today, the main customs preserved and celebrated throughout Cyprus are associated with the rites of separation, that symbolize the separation of the couple to be married from their families and from their social position as less than full adults. These are: the shaving of the groom, the “dancing of the wedding clothes”, the dressing of the bride and groom, the zosimon ritual (the tying and untying of a red kerchief around the waist of the bride and groom) and the kapnisman ritual (holy smoke) for the evil eye. Also, specially linked with village weddings in the Paphos district, is the custom of preparing the traditional Resi dish, a mixture of meat and wheat.

The aforementioned rituals and customs take place at the childhood homes of the bride and groom to be, before the wedding ceremony at the church takes place. In the old days, the bride and groom were made to sit on a chair with an embroidered pillow, under which they placed a straw mat. The best man and the maid of honour, with all due formality, help the bride and groom to get ready, which is why they are always by their side. The dressing of the bride and groom is accompanied by traditional musicians (violin and lute players), who perform music and songs, that describe and give instructions on the way and procedure to carry out the ritual.

Shaving of the groom: The groom’s relatives, friends and best man gather to dress, shave and adorn the groom, with the accompaniment of the music and songs of the violin and lute players. A professional barber shaves the groom while the best man holds the towel and helps him. The gathered relatives, friends and other guests, gift the barber and the musicians, placing money in a plate in front of them. The atmosphere is quite joyous and humorous, as attendees “compete” among themselves to see who can “torture” the groom more. In fact sometimes, the barber pretends that he will cut the groom so the attendees pay him money not to.

The “dancing of the wedding clothes”: The clothes of the bride and groom are placed folded on a basket, the so-called tsesto, and covered with a red cloth. The basket is usually placed on a chair. In the old days, the priest would bless the clothes with the censer - a metal censer suspended from chains, in which incense is burned – by crossing them with his hand three times, and blowing at them in the shape of a crucifix. Today, the mother of the groom circles the clothes three times with the censer, above the basket. Then, accompanied by violins and songs, three women and three men dance with the bride’s and groom’s clothes. Additional dancers can perform the “dancing of the wedding clothes” as long as the number of dancers remains odd. Each dancer would first make the sign of the cross and then pick up the basket with the clothes to dance. He/she dances three circles around the bride or groom, or around the chair on which the basket was placed.

Preparing the bride and groom: In the old days, the best man would cross the groom and dress him in the traditional clothing, which was a shirt and vraka, the wide-breeches worn traditionally by men in Cyprus, while the groom’s parents would put his belt - or Zostra - and purse on. The mother of the groom would wrap a scarf around his neck. Likewise, the koumera (maid of honour) dresses the bride with other women and places the veil on her head, adorns her with jewellery and dabs her with rosewater. In the old days, the father, mother and or godmother would place a tsemberi, which was the traditional women's headscarf of Cyprus, on the bride’s head.

The red scarf blessing or zosimo: The couple is blessed with a red scarf or belt three times by each parent. This is a special and sacred moment, as the parents are bidding their child farewell. In certain areas, the bride and groom are blessed by other relatives as well, grandparents, siblings, godparents. The number of individuals must be odd and in some cases must not exceed five. They use the scarf to make the sign of the crucifix on the bride and groom’s chest or head, while in some villages the crucifix is shaped by stretching the scarf and making two cross movements in front of the chest. They then take it in turns to wrap the scarf or belt around the bride and groom’s waist three times, tying it loosely. In the old days, the scarf/belt was blessed by the village priest, or he may even have wrapped the belt around them himself. The red scarf blessing, zosimo, symbolises the couple’s purity; the untying of the scarf by the parents marked the couple’s transition from virgin life to married life, according to folk but also to byzantine sources. Furthermore, the use of the red scarf, which is held lopsided and folded in a triangular shape, refers to the red triangular fabric that was used in the medieval era to prevent evil and protect against the evil eye. Similarly, the wrapping of the scarf three times around the waist is to keep the evil eye away from the couple. At the same time, in the process there is a wish for fertility.

The censer blessing: After the zosimo, the bride and groom are blessed with a censer to protect against the evil eye. The parents bless the couple by circling the censer around their head three times. Sometimes they also sprinkle them with rosewater. They used to smash the plate holding the censer, as well as the plate used to collect money for the violinist.

Preparation of the resi: Resi is a traditional Cyprus wedding dish. It is made from coarsely ground wheat boiled in meat broth. As the preparation method is time-consuming, it is usually carried out as a ritual at weddings, with special attention to every detail. Fellow villagers would help with preparing the resi in the old days, and so they would be invited to gather and wash and beat the wheat. The violin would be played from the moment the procedure began. At first they used to use faoutes (wooden flails) to beat the wheat before turning to grinding it either in a hand-made mill or the village’s olive mill. The wheat would then be left out in the sun to dry, before the bark was removed and it was taken to the village fountain to be washed. First they boil the meat thoroughly and mash it with their fingers to ensure there are no bones left in the broth. They then slowly pour in the wheat and cook over a low heat overnight, so it turns into porridge. The resi is cooked in cauldrons and the procedure, which demands delicate handling, must always be carried out by someone experienced. Nowadays, this tradition is being kept alive by families mostly in the Paphos and Limassol districts. In fact, Letymbou village in Paphos has established an annual resi festival, aimed at safeguarding the tradition as a part of our cultural heritage.

The abovementioned wedding traditions are practiced in all of Cyprus’ districts today, with variations.


Photo Gallery

Διαδικασία παρασκευής "ρεσιού", Μηλιού, Πάφος
Διαδικασία παρασκευής "ρεσιού", Μηλιού, Πάφος
Ο χορός των ρούχων της νύφης
Ο χορός των ρούχων της νύφης
Το "ζώσιμο" της νύφης
Το "ζώσιμο" της νύφης
Το "κάπνισμα" του γαμπρού
Το "κάπνισμα" του γαμπρού