March will host carnival season in the lead up to the Easter celebrations this year, which started from 29th February 2016. But what do these wonderful celebrations represent, and what do they mean to the Cypriot people?
In short, carnival is associated with the beginning of the 40 day period of fasting prior to Easter – historically carnival was called “Apokries” which means in Greek “without meat”. It is a 10 day celebration, with carnival events starting on the “Shrove Thursday” (the last day of eating meat before fasting), leading up to the ‘grand parade’ 10 days later. The city of Limassol hosts the largest of the grand parades, this year taking place on the 13th March (Paphos parade will take place on the 12th). See our CARNIVAL BLOG for details on when and where to catch the carnival parades.
The carnival Grand Parade is a very excitable affair, with colourful floats and groups ofpeople parading through the city, singing and dancing, with party music jeering on the atmosphere – it’s a truly colourful and vibrant atmosphere. Each float and group of people go to great effort with their costumes, some traditional, some satirical, but all themed and very fun to observe. Large crowds of people gather in the streets to watch the open-air celebrations and feasting which take place.
Green Monday (also known as ‘clean Monday’), is the national public holiday that falls the day after the carnival Grand Parade. It is the first day of lent which marks a period of fasting – eating meat, poultry, 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. The hundreds of bakeries on the island accommodate those who fast by adding dairy-free, egg-free and meat-free pastries and cookies to their already vast array of goodies. Generally, fasting is followed more strictly in the villages of Cyprus than in the towns, but most restaurants and takeaways also add fasting dishes to their menus during this period.
Lent is also a time for personal examination, repentance and self improvement. Traditionally Green Monday is the day when the house is cleaned of all non-fasting foodstuffs, and is also commonly celebrated by families going out together for a picnic and flying kites – the skies are always full of wonderful, bright colourful kites along the coastline!
Stay tuned to find out more details on the carnivals, so that you can go along and experience them for yourself 🙂
Fasting Facts: The ‘fasting’ calendar of the orthodox church requires that for 48 days before Easter, 40 days before Christmas and lesser fasting periods throughout the year, people stop eating meat and animal products (with the exception of certain fish) – in total half the year is taken up by fasting. On the highest holy days such as Good Friday, even olive oil is not allowed.
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