THE LADY IS "RECEIVING" (I KYRIA
The custom of celebrating one's name day is a prevalent one here,
because many people are called after the Saint on whose day they are born.
Very often, if a baby is very sick, it is promised to a Saint and,
should it get well, its name will be changed to that of the Saint to
whom it was taken for its cure.
On the actual Saint's Day, the "Yortaris" ~ feast giver ~ comes to church
bringing wine and koulouria ~ specially baked buns.
After the sermon, the priest steps outside the church with the icon
and the feast-giver follows.
After having kissed the icon, he or she stands beside the priest
with the wine and koulouria beside him.
One by one the congregation comes out, kisses the icon and then
wishes the feast-giver well, and the feast-giver in return offers
wine and koulouria.
After that, friends and relatives are invited to the home of the "Yortaris",
where everyone will start eating
and drinking, and later on there will
be singing and dancing until late afternoon or evening.
Should you be a visitor to the village you will probably be invited to
every house that has a "Yortaris" and will be offered to eat and drink at every one!
The people will be most offended if you do not go to
all of them!
In the towns the feast-giver will send two loaves to church and go to
church on the eve of the Saint's day and take the one loaf home.
Should he not manage to go to church, the loaf will be sent to
the family and the sermon fee will be cashed in.
But usually the lady of the house will accept visitors on the
name day itself ~ that is, on her own, her husband's and her
children's name day. If she is officially "receiving" ~
if "I kyria dechete" as we say ~
this will be published in the local paper stating that Mrs. So-and-so
will be receiving on the nameday of her husband, 19th of..... and if
she has a great many friends and acquaintances, she may state two
or dates on which she will be at home to guests.
On the other hand, she may publish that she will NOT be receiving
on the name day of her husband!
If you are a friend of the family you will send a cake or chocolates
on the eve of the name day or on the day itself, and you will probably
be invited to a party for that purpose in the evening or afternoon
after the official visits are over.
The speciality offered to visitors on such a day is "Loukoumia" ~
semolina cake stuffed with almonds and coated with a thick layer
of icing sugar. The same are offered at weddings as well. Or very
often nowadays macaroons or a bar of chocolate will be offered.
Mind you, the day time visiting is done by ladies only, and sometimes
one has twenty to thirty such visits to accomplish in a day!
Now let us come to the art of visiting a friend on her name day.
The lady of the house who "dechete" is receiving visitors ~
greets you at the door on your arrival and while shaking hands you
wish her "Na zisete" (if it is her name day) or "Na sas zisi" if it is her husband's or
child's name day:
this means "you may live" or
"May he/she be kept alive for you".
Then you are taken into the sitting room where, together with
other ladies, you will sit for a few minutes, the maximum ten
if there are a few visitors ~ making polite conversation about the
family and the weather, or commenting on the latest news.
You are then offered the traditional "loukoumi" which you must not
eat now, but take and, while you wish her well again, you also take
a paper serviette offered at the same time, and wrap it in that, then
put it in your handbag. You are also offered a sweet or a small
chocolate, or a sugar coated almond, which you eat on the spot
if you wish to. You then sit for a few more minutes after which you
take your leave and go on to your next acquaintance.
So ~ do take a large handbag with you! At home the children
will be delighted with the loukoumia and chocolates.
A friend of mine from abroad who lived next to a Greek family
came to see me one day not long after her arrival in Cyprus,
and she was rather puzzled.
"You know", she said, "it's funny.
I kept watching my neighbour's house today,
was happening. I think I know now, though.
They must have been registering their fur coats there!".
Now I looked puzzled. "You see", she went on, "all day long
ladies in fur coats or jackets went in, stayed for a few minutes
and then came out again. What else could they have been doing
in there? I did not know that one has to register furs here.
I"m wondering whether I should have gone in and registered mine"
Then I burst out laughing for,
in the meantime, I'd realised what
the ladies had been doing.
Never before, however, had I looked at this custom of ours
from a stranger's point of view.
This had, of course, been the lady's Name Day....!