THE LADY IS "RECEIVING"
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" (buns) 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 whe 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,
wondering what 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....!
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