100+ years of the Limassol Carnival

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Social Life
Tradition and Customs

The Carnival is a large, traditional festival, the roots of which date back to ancient times. Although celebrated throughout Cyprus, it has grown to such large proportions in Limassol that it now fully identifies with the city itself. This traditional festival, which is now an institution, has been regularly celebrated in the city for more than 100 years on the eve of spring, filling revelers with joy and optimism. 

The carnival, in its many iterations over the years, remains connected with the city and its people, with the flourishing and progress of Limassol, and with the conviviality and creativity of its local residents. In addition to offering an outlet for fun and release, the carnival has always had a rather satirical tone, lampooning current events and offering a playful commentary on social and political matters.

The Carnival then
The traditional celebrations of 'crazy masks' (pellomaska) were replaced by social balls shortly after the arrival of the British in Cyprus, in the late 19th century. Thus, the traditional feasting accompanied by "tsiattista" (short, lyrical spoken-word poems) is transformed into a "European"-style urban carnival.

The 1950s
Cinemas begin to open in the city and become places of assembly and of cultural / artistic activity. Inevitably, their role became linked to the organization of the carnival, as they begin hosting a series of carnival dances.

During this period, small-scale parades start to take place, usually hosted on the coastal road. Groups of serenaders are the only carnival revelers that are mobile in the streets, and to this day form part of the quintessential Carnival music of Limassol. 

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The 1960s
Thanks to the tourism boom and the appearance of the city's first hotels, the carnival is propelled into a more cosmopolitan era. Large groups in the city begin organizing spectacular dances and the carnival is celebrated in mostly indoor areas. The selection and creation of costumes becomes a source for competition, and much time, money and ingenuity is spent by people to ensure their costume stands out.

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Carnival in crisis
Traditions are never abandoned during difficult times, yet the impact of the war of 1974 was great, and resulted in a gap in the Carnival celebrations. When the great economic crisis of 2013 hit, followed by the announcement of the haircuts on the weekend of the Carnival, the parade took place as usual. For some, this was deemed necessary in order to maintaine the morale of the population, as well as to support the local economy.

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The Carnival today
The major breakthrough in the organization of the Carnival took place from 1996 onwards, under Mayor Dimitris Kontides. The carnival spills out into the streets, and major parades become the center of all events. The Limassol Municipality begins organizing events in open spaces, with free entry and participation. The official opening day for the Carnival is still Tsiknopempti ('Smokey Thursday'), with grills and impromptu parties being set up in the historical city center.

The carnival festivities culminate during the weekends of Carnival and Tyrini ('Cheese Week') with the organization of the children’s parade and the grand parade, featuring themed floats and large groups of participants. In the grand Carnival parade of 2016, the number of people participating exceeded 15,000, a record number in the 100+ years of the event. For a parade of that size, participants begin prepareations months in advance.

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The Serenaders
According to the Carnival program, serenaders participate in the lunchtime feasts of Tsiknopempti, in the parade to mark the entrance of King Carnival on the evening of the same day, and in the grand parade on the last Sunday, as well as on other days of the week, on special events in the open areas of the city center.

* NOTE: The tributes of the Project "History of Limassol" present information that has emerged from historical research thus far. Any new data is embedded into the tributes, once it has been confirmed.