The colourful and wild modern day Limassol carnival sees thousands of people descend on the seaside town to have a seriously good time before the start of Lent. With inhibitions left aside and fantastical – and sometimes downright bizarre – costumes commonplace, the two weeks leading up to the Grand Sunday parade (Sunday 18th February this year) are marked by parties, parades and all sorts of fabulous festivities.
And although the modern-day version of carnival dates back just over 100 years, the celebration is actually rooted in ancient times, when children and adults dressed up for a festival honouring Dionysus, the deity of wine and fun. Records from Venetian times then point more clearly to a dedicated carnival season on the island, but it wasn’t until the late 19th century that the occasion began to slowly transform into the kind of carnival that we are familiar with today, as households flung open their doors to masked revellers and hundreds of people descended onto main Limassol streets and squares, singing and dancing in brilliant disguise.
Carnival parties also became a big deal by the early 20th century, and by the mid-1950s, serenaders also stepped into the limelight! As we prepare for this Sunday’s grand carnival parade, My Cyprus Insider takes you on a little visual journey back in time.
1. Early 20th century Limassol carnival party
This picture taken in the 1920s shows how much Limassolians love to dress up during the carnival period, with fancy dress parties held at houses and various halls around town in the early part of the 20th century.
2. Vehicles from Amiandos mine join in with celebrations
There was plenty of cheering on the streets in 1928, when 25 vehicles used in Amiandos arrived on the scene, laying the foundations for a new trend whereby any group who wished to partake in the carnival parade celebrations were more than welcome.
3. Male seranaders appear on the carnival scene
To this day, you can’t talk about carnival in Cyprus without talking about serenaders, known as ‘Kantadori’. Making their appearance in the late 1940s, they were known to roam the streets with guitars and mandolins, often singing under balconies with songs about the beauty of Limassol, the pleasure of life and the carnival celebrations!
4. The first female serenaders tour the city streets
As crowds delighted in the emergence of male seranaders on the carnival scene, women were soon keen to join the fun, with the first female seranaders making their appearance in 1953.
5. A western flair with ‘My Fair Lady’
By the middle of the last century, references to western culture were an evident part of carnival, as all things traditional and modern mixed together, as depicted by this 1968 ‘My Fair Lady’ parade.
6. Extravagant floats making an appearance
Speaking of change in the 1960s, as the first hotels in Limassol opened their doors and more tourists jetted into the island, things became more flamboyant during the Limassol carnival. With more money and time spent on costumes, each participating group was keen on outshining their counterparts!
7. ‘I epohi tis masas!’ (‘a time of consumption’) carnival float
Satire also became a big thing in the 1960s, as depicted by this carnival float with a mouth wide open swallowing a big chunk of money!
8. ‘The present and the past’ combine
References to the past are always a part of the Cyprus carnival, as epitomised by this giant float from the 1970s.
9. Young ‘Gods of Olympus’ taking to the streets in 1967
Not just about satire and all things jolly, the carnival has always paid homage to the island’s ancient past as well as ancient Greek gods, as depicted in this picture taken in 1967 of children dressed as gods and goddesses.
Cover photo credit: allaboutlimassol.com