by The Old Olive Mill Dhoros
The Stephana placed in its Stephanothiki
Having seen the old Stephana of my friend's father (who is now over 80) hanging on the wall above his old white iron bed I decided to look into the history of these beautiful wedding mementos and found much more than I had anticipated...
Ancient traditions from Aphrodite’s time combined with early Orthodox Christian beliefs to form the Cypriot wedding we know today.
The Stephana (Crowns) are one of the oldest and most important parts of the wedding ceremony.
In ancient times the couple and their guests wore matching stephana dedicated to Aphrodite; usually made from olive leaves, vine leaves and lemon flowers.
The bride and groom wore white to symbolise the purity of their bodies and their relationship with one another.
By early Christian times the Stephana were worn solely by the bride and groom and were made from fragile and delicately scented lemon flowers that represented the couple’s virginity and purity.
In the Byzantine period the Stephana became a symbol of royalty; representing a royal crowns. The marriage was seen as the creation of a new kingdom: the home and the family of the couple. The priest prayed that God would bless them with glory and honour in their new kingdom and with the wisdom and justice to rule it.
Today the Stephana represent the holiness and sanctity of the joining of two people; Rings of a chain that binds their lives forever; for this reason the priest ties the ribbons of the two Stephana together symbolising two becoming one.
As symbols of their eternal love for one another the Stephana becomes a cherished part of their home. In the past, the Stephana were placed with the home's religious icons to symbolise the sanctity of their marriage and as with the icons; protectors of their home.
Nowadays the Stephana are usually kept in a special box called a stephanothiki and placed on the couple’s bedroom wall either above their bed or the door; recognising the bedroom as the foundation stone of their marriage and future family.
Today Stephana are often made of precious materials and kept for future generations as a keepsafe. However I prefer the older tradition of placing the Stephana in the coffins of the deceased.
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