Carnival has been celebrated on the island of Cyprus for centuries, and the tradition is believed to have been established under Venetian rule around the 16th century. It may also have been influenced by Greek traditions, such as festivities for deities such as Dionysus. The celebration originally involved dressing in fancy costumes and holding masked balls or visiting friends. For approximately the past century, it has taken the form of an organized festival held during the 10 days preceding Lent (according to the Greek Orthodox calendar. The festival is celebrated almost exclusively in the city of Limassol. Three main parades take place during Carnival. The first is held on the first day, during which the "King Carnival" (either a person in costume or an effigy) rides through the city on his carriage. The second is held on the first Sunday of the festival and the participants are mainly children. The third and largest takes place on the last day of Carnival, and involves hundreds of people walking in costume along the town's longest avenue. The latter two parades are open to anyone who wishes to participate.
They call it "Stinky Thursday." In Greek, "Tsiknopempti." It's a lot more appetizing than it sounds. Tsikna describes the mouthwatering aroma of lamb and pork, seasoned with rosemary, as it's grilled or slowly spit-roasted. Every February this smell fills the air in Limassol.It's a signal that Limassol Carnival, the liveliest, most colorful event of the year on the island, is around the corner.
Limassol's big festival has to be spectacular to stand out. Cyprus's calendar is crammed with festivals celebrating everything from wine and food to drama and dance.
Cure for the winter blues, For many visitors from colder climates, Carnival is a welcoming, dazzling antidote to the winter blues. Limassol Carnival makes everyone forget about their problems for a while, have fun and laugh with all their heart.
Like Carnival in Venice, Cyprus's version is part of a long Christian tradition of enjoying a final blast of self indulgence before the austerity and fasting of the Lenten period. It begins 10 days before Lent, at the beginning of Kreatini or "meat week" -- the last chance for devout Orthodox Cypriots to tuck into a tasty platter of grilled souvla, or even a humble kebab, until Easter. Everybody gets in on the act, with the city's brass band and groups of drummers and mandolin-toting kantadoroi "serenaders" accompanying the Carnival King (or Queen). That monarch's entrance parade opens the festivities on Shrove Thursday. More musicians and dancers fill Limassol's streets and squares throughout the event.
Traditionally, the parades have an element of satire, With Carnival floats and costumed marchers making a colorful comment on current affairs. Kleon Alexandrou, Limassol Municipality's carnival organizer, says that since the event's rebirth 120 years ago it's turned into "possibly the only Carnival parade in the world that focuses on satirizing the current economic, social and political issues of the country."
Generosity reigns throughout the carnival period. Participants in the Serenaders' Parade -- which takes place on the last Saturday of Carnival -- are plied with local wines to encourage them to join in the singing and dancing. During the second week -- Tyrini, or "Cheese Week" -- local tavernas and delis compete to offer free samples of cheesy treats such as bourekia, deep-fried pastries filled with spiced and sweetened anari cheese.
Events take place in Limassol every day during carnival season. Limassol Municipality hosts at least five masked balls, including an open-air ball on Heroon Square in the city center, and others in the grand ballrooms of the city's big hotels. There are plenty of places to buy or rent colorful outfits and elaborate masks. For most visitors to Limassol, the high point is the second Sunday of Apokreo. On this final day of celebrations, the Grand Carnival Parade of elaborately (and eccentrically) decorated floats accompanies the "royal" entourage along Archbishop Makarios III Avenue, accompanied by as many as 100 teams of costumed carnivalists.
Each group chooses a different costume each year. Some are bought off the peg, others are lovingly hand made. Clowns, cowboys, pirates, dragons, ancient Greeks and medieval knights are popular themes, and you can expect to see bands of film and pop stars along with characters from the year's hit movies and musicals.
Clean Monday (Greek: Καθαρά Δευτέρα), also known as Pure Monday, Ash Monday, Monday of Lent or Green Monday, is the first day of Great Lent in the Eastern Orthodox Christian, Saint Thomas Christians of India and Eastern Catholic churches. It is a moveable feast that occurs at the beginning of the 7th week before Orthodox Easter Sunday. The common term for this day, "Clean Monday", refers to the leaving behind of sinful attitudes and non-fasting foods. It is sometimes called "Ash Monday", by analogy with Ash Wednesday (the day when the Western Churches begin Lent).
Liturgically, Clean Monday—and thus Lent itself—begins on the preceding (Sunday) night, at a special service called Forgiveness Vespers, which culminates with the Ceremony of Mutual Forgiveness, at which all present will bow down before one another and ask forgiveness. In this way, the faithful begin Lent with a clean conscience, with forgiveness, and with renewed Christianlove. The entire first week of Great Lent is often referred to as "Clean Week", and it is customary to go to Confession during this week, and to clean the house thoroughly. The theme of Clean Monday is set by the Old Testament reading appointed to be read at the Sixth Hour on this day (Isaiah 1:1–20), which says, in part: "Wash yourselves and ye shall be clean; put away the wicked ways from your souls before Mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well. Seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, consider the fatherless, and plead for the widow. Come then, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: Though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as snow; and though they be red like crimson, I will make them white as wool" (vv. 16–18).
Clean Monday is a public holiday in Greece and Cyprus, where it is celebrated with outdoor excursions, the consumption of shellfish and other fasting food, a special kind of azyme bread,baked only on that day, named "lagana" (Greek: λαγάνα) and the widespread custom of flying kites. Eating meat, eggs and dairy products is traditionally forbidden to Orthodox Christians throughout Lent, with fish being eaten only on major feast days, but shellfish is permitted in European denominations. This has created the tradition of eating elaborate dishes based on seafood (shellfish, molluscs, fish roe etc.). Traditionally, it is considered to mark the beginning of the spring season, a notion which was used symbolically in Ivan Bunin's critically acclaimed story, Pure Monday. The happy, springtime atmosphere of Clean Monday may seem at odds with the Lenten spirit of repentance and self-control, but this seeming contradiction is a marked aspect of the Orthodox approach to fasting, in accordance with the Gospel lesson (Matthew 6:14–21) read on the morning before, which admonishes: "When ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face, that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret..." (v. 16–18). In this manner, the Orthodox celebrate the fact that "The springtime of the Fast has dawned, the flower of repentance has begun to open...