December is officially the beginning of winter. These slow months of darkness and quiet can feel like a long pull into spring. In North Cyprus the days are still deceptively sunny, but night creeps upon us earlier each evening and the warmth of the day fades into the shadows. It’s time to light the fire.
When Christianity chose the date for Christmas in December, it did so because, in the old Roman calendar, the 25th was the date of the winter solstice, the shortest day, the darkest day of the year. Throughout the ancient world, be it Germany, Persia, Stonehenge in Britain, Roman Saturnalia or Scandinavian Yule, all those ancient people who gazed into the night sky and knew the dance of the stars and the planets, celebrated that day and knew they were halfway through the darkness and into the light.
As we prepare to celebrate “the most wonderful time of the year,” I’ll tell you how we do things here and share some of the mystery and magic of Christmas in North Cyprus.
Nicholas defied the Roman Empire and stood up for his faith during an age of persecution before the Emperor Constantine came to power and made Christianity the official religion. He became a much-loved Saint through tales of him freeing slaves and bringing murdered children back to life. Through the centuries, Santa stories mingled with fairy tales and legends of childhood, transforming into the jolly old man who brings secret gifts.
Although North Cyprus is a nominally Muslim country, we see plenty of Santas and other Christmas-related life and colour on the streets and in the shops and restaurants. I’ll tell you more about that next time!