A legendary village festival celebrating the olive tree
By Heidi Trautmann
Autumn has arrived, no doubt about that. Heat has broken so suddenly, nights are cool and a further reminder of it is the yearly Olive Festival. It says that after the festival the first rains will fall to give the olive the extra juice and the olive factories will open their doors and check their machines for the rush to be expected.
For six days starting from October 2 until 7, the olive will be celebrated in Zeytinlik which means olive grove; Zeytinlik, or by the old name Templos or Temblos, has its own history and legends and going back to the Templars; it is said that it was their property and that they kept their horses there. The St. Hilarion castle just above Zeytinlik has delivered so many further material for legends which are still told today, retold by Ali Nesim, a writer born in the village, in his legends book. Perhaps he is again present for this year’s festival with his books about the olive tree and the legends of the village.
For thousands of years the olive tree has been the biggest producer of life quality, the most important basic food in our kitchens, a product used for medicinal purposes and the beauty culture and right down to its leaves which are burnt to fend off sickness and mosquitoes, to greet and honour a guest coming, at least in the old days.
We have our own olive trees and for us it is always a very special season, to pick the fruit, sort them out within two days and take them to the nearest oil factory; ten years ago there were still old traditional oil mills, there is still one in Kozan Köy, when you had to reckon with one entire day until you could go home with your canisters full of golden green olive oil. Today the process is so much faster and cleaner, but somehow I miss the old traditional way.
We go every year to Zeytinlik and enjoy tasting the many dishes based on olive oil and the fruit and stroll along the stalls to see what products they have on display. This year there will be many events on the village stage as I can see from the programme, with dance shows of all kind of disciplines, folk dance, tango, modern dance and so on. But also theatre shows and presentation of new books and poetry reading. There will also be many events for children and all sorts of competitions.
Let us go and honour the olive tree together with the villagers, celebrate the opening of the olive harvesting, and with it the arrival of autumn which will hopefully bring us good rainfalls to nourish the parched soil of our gardens.
Published in Cyprus Observer Sep 29, 2012