It’s mid February and love is in the air – followed by ten days of colourful party-time mayhem… from celebrating St Valentine’s Day on Friday 14th to the annual Limassol Carnival starting on Thursday 20th. A traditional Cyprus twosome that says spring is nearly here, which means Limassol’s summer visitor season will soon be in full swing.
As always, Londa offers her own authentic lifestyle take with a “Designed Valentine’s Dinner”, starting with Valentine cocktails in the Caprice Lounge followed by a ‘bouquet of delicious courses’ at the Caprice Restaurant – all prepared with a romantic twist! Love goddess Aphrodite, as ever, presides supreme in her Cyprus birthplace, which means resistance is futile, of course!
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Public display of exuberant, community spirit
If St Valentine’s Day is all about celebrating that shared glow of intimacy, then the Limassol Carnival turns up the warmth and the passion for all to join in a public display of exuberant, community spirit. The spirit of Carnival taking place on the cusp of spring is the traditional moment for everyone to express their optimism for the year ahead. Daytime temperatures of 17-18C are also heating up the air in February with skies set fair for ten days of non-stop troubadour dancing, singing, eye-catching costume parades and fancy dress balls.
The tradition of carnival celebrations and similar festivities in Limassol is relatively modern, and dates back to the early 1900s when the local community would welcome family and friends into their homes to enjoy the lavish consumption of food and wine. At the same time, parades were organised using donkeys, horse-drawn carriages, and bicycles.
Dressing up in disguise may have originated with the ancient Greeks
It’s believed that the modern practice of dressing up in disguise for the Carnival may have originated with the ancient Greek dramatists, Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles (5th century BCE), when the actors wore masques during their performances. However, the Carnival is also linked much further back to pre-Christian times and festivals to celebrate the cult of Dionysos when ancient Greeks took to wearing special costumes and masks, and indulged in long days of feasting.
Today, Limassol Carnival is also understood to be related to the celebrations held prior to the fast of Lent when the Carnival was known as “Apokries”, i.e. “without meat”. It was also customary for people to wear masks and disguise themselves in costume, which enabled ridicule and mockery of their fellow citizens to freely take place.
Large quantities of meat and wine are consumed in the first week
‘Meat Week’ is now a firm tradition when large quantities of meat and wine are consumed in the first week of carnival, which is the last time for eating meat before Easter. The day the festival starts is known as “Tsiknopempti” or “”Stinky Thursday” because of the cooking aromas of meat, which fill the air right across the town.
This year, the Limassol Carnival officially begins on Thursday 20th February when the King of the Carnival makes a grand entrance and continues in procession right through the town especially decorated for the occasion. This year the King is choreographer, George Nicolaou, who has actively participated in the Limassol carnival parade for 25 years.
Over the next three days, endless throngs of troubadours and carnival players will be serenading across the town – and on the radio airwaves. The annual children’s fancy dress competition – considered to be one of the key events – follows on the first Sunday (23rd) of the Carnival.
Non-stop tour de force of parades, choirs, masked balls and concerts
The second week of Carnival is known as ‘Cheese Week’ – due to the custom of eating of all types of cheese and dairy products. Every day presents a non-stop tour de force of parades, choirs, masked balls, concerts, competitions and exhibitions, peaking with the traditional Grand Masquerade on Sunday 1st March.
Starting from Ayios Nikolaos Roundabout, the King of The Carnival reappears to parade down Makarios Avenue from 1.00pm to the annual spectacular final – a grand outdoor costume ball at the Old Port Square, starting at 9.00pm. More than 150 floats and 50,000 people are expected to take part in the procession, for which, awards will be given for the best and most outlandish masks and costumes.
The annual Limassol Carnival has gained a reputation worldwide as “the coolest street festival outside of Rio”. As an authentic celebration of a community’s cultural song and dance traditions, the ten days of joyous merrymaking before the orthodox observance of Lent is for everyone of all ages and backgrounds.
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