Carnival tradition is closely associated with what the Greeks call ‘Apokria’, namely a celebration at the beginning of the Christian fasting period where everyone can transcend social restriction and follow their passions! In simple terms, here is a chance to let your hair down. Ironically, such vivacious self-expression was possibly born from the Dionysian Festivals of classical antiquity, which were linked to three great tragedians Euripides, Sophocles and Aeschylus. Nevertheless, this would explain the preoccupation with masks and satire of the everyday!
Despite the extroverted community effort that goes into the carnival nowadays, Limassol, or Lemesos, Carnival probably derives from people entertaining privately within their own homes. Inevitably, these parties burst out onto the street and eventually evolved into the festivals of colour that we are accustomed to today.
The modern Limassol Carnival is celebrated by tourists and residents of all ages and traditionally begins on Shrove Thursday every year. The event begins with the Carnival Queen or King being hailed into town and continues for a full ten days! The party includes a traditional Tuesday dance, in which locals don the most flair fancy dress that they can muster.
Such an event is testament to how heavily the Carnival depends on the participation of the Cypriots, whom never disappoint, with crowds increasing year on year! Other activities include open-air parties, children’s parades and the infamous serenader evenings in which people wander the streets in gold dress, their guitars and mandolins in hand, paying tribute to old times by singing under locals’ balconies; the Medieval Castle Square is a popular spot for this. Other events do vary, but have previously included photograph exhibitions, carnival mask exhibitions, treasure hunts, street feasts and spontaneous musical performances at markets and restaurants. Local choirs are fundamental to the running of the carnival, with several performances running every day and tempting crowds from afar.
The festivities culminate with the Grand Carnival Parade on the final Sunday; diplomas are presented, fireworks displayed and a wonderful ball sees in the small hours.
If you happen to be in Limassol during these ten days, then you will have the opportunity to see Cyprus at its most vibrant. Especially during the current problems with economic crises, this fortnight of madness is viewed as a well-earned party and much needed release for the locals! You are unlikely to find another opportunity to integrate so freely with the residents, so invest in some sparkle and pop in for a day or two!
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