Limassol Carnival returns on 28th February… which this exuberant and colourful celebration of music and dance has done around this time every year since 1890! However, in an unexpected break from tradition, there will be two queens riding in regal chariots, as they lead a fabulous carnival procession from Makarios Avenue right through the town centre on the 10th of March. Another Carnival first is the new lion logo – symbol of Limassol itself – and the enduring power of the annual festivities!
Once again, guests and visitors to Londa Hotel who seek authentic immersive experiences have an opportunity to be at the pulsating heart of a truly spectacular, cultural event. In the days before Lent, Cyprus citizens put on fantastical fancy dress costumes and masks in eye-popping, vibrant colours, accompanied by the rousing songs of masquerading troubadours. More than 120 floats and around 50,000 or more people are expected to take part in one of the most long-standing of popular folk festivals in the entire Limassol calendar.
Non-stop energetic display of parades and outdoor dancing
The rituals of Carnival have been handed down through the generations, and it’s origins can be traced back to the original celebrations held before the fasting period of Lent begins. Going further back, there is also a link to the pre-Christian era and the Dionysian Festivals of classical antiquity. One long held tradition is ‘Meat Week’ – the consumption of meat and wine in the first week of carnival – and the last time for eating meat before Easter. During the second week – known as ‘Cheese Week’ because of the copious eating of dairy products – there is a non-stop schedule of parades, choirs, masked balls, concerts, competitions and exhibitions.
The day the festival starts – this year it’s February 28th – is also known as Tsiknopempti or “”Stinky Thursday” because of the strong aroma of meat and barbecue smoke wafting across the entire district. It’s also the day that the two carnival queens of “fun and happiness” are crowned – the first time in 129 years that a queen will not be seen side by side with a king. Over the next 10 days, throughout the taverns, bars, clubs and hotels, the district will be taken over by an almost non-stop energetic display of parades, outdoor dancing, endless pop-up parties, costume competitions, serenading and masquerades.
Serenades – express common roots and identity
The serenades and carnival songs – known as the “special sound” – are understood as the eternal spirit of the Limassol Carnival, which are traditionally sung by male choirs accompanied by mandolins and guitars. Their very individual character has long been identified as the boisterous, energetic soul of the Limassol people, which expresses their common roots and identity. The six finalists of last year’s serenade will perform their carnival songs earlier in February, when the top three will be chosen.
The ever popular custom of the masquerade is inspired by a dazzling variety of themes, which often include historical and political events, movies, and the cultures of foreign countries, mythology and folk tales. The most long standing and traditional of masquerades are the so-called pellomaskes. These tend to be last-minute, improvised, humorous-looking designs, worn not only to conceal identity but also for satire, laughter or just for fun. And of course, fun is very much part of the carnival tradition for the children too. On the first Sunday of the festival, the annual children’s parade is considered to be one of the key events of the entire celebration.
Preliminary design for Limassol Carnival Museum
The Carnival will reach its musical festive climax on the evening of Sunday 10th with a grand outdoor costume ball when awards will be given for the best and most crazy of masks and costumes. The next day, Monday 11th is the first day of Lent – known as “Green Day” – which is traditionally filled with joy, laughter and vegetarian picnics. This is followed by a fifty-day fasting period, in which meat and dairy products are abstained from in favour of a vegetarian diet.
In another new move for upholding the honoured tradition of its carnival, Limassol mayor, Nicos Nicolaides, has recently declared the need for the creation of a Limassol Carnival museum. A preliminary design has already been completed, and following municipal council approval, the plans and proposals will be made available to the public. Visitors to Limassol will soon be able to not only experience this most historic of traditional Cyprus festivities but also look back over a century of Limassol Carnival’s living history recorded in images, words, songs and dance.