What an action packed, fun-filled couple of weeks we have had recently. The Carnival Celebrations in Cyprus 2017 started with “Tsiknopempti”, 11 days prior to “Green Monday” (alternatively known as Clean Monday by some), this day marks the beginning of the carnival celebrations in Cyprus. The literal translation of “Tsiknopepmti” is “Thursday of the smoke of Roasted Meat” – I kid you not! Tsikno = the smoke/smell of roasted meat, and Pempti = Thursday. What this actually means is that it is the last day before Lent begins that Greeks & Cypriots are allowed to eat meat. So on every street corner, in every school, on the beach, and in most backyards and gardens, the BBQ’s are fired up, and laden with meat, for a final meat feast before the traditional vegan fasting of 40-50 days, followed by the Greek Orthodox religion.
Pork & Chicken Souvla & Souvlaki (think BIG KEBAB / little kebab), Chicken, Sheftalia, Burgers, Cyprus Sausages, Ribs – you get the picture, are are cooked and consumed in huge quantities. The villages and towns are filled with the smell of the roasting meat, and smoke from the charcoal. Being on a diet (Unhappy Face!) I resisted doing a BBQ of our own, but H had souvlaki at school and they played games outside all day. The teachers and Year 6 students have The BBQ’s fired up all day to feed the students and staff! Niffa visited his friend, the local mechanic, who of course had downed tools for a 3 hour lunch break with his partner and colleagues, for their Tsiknopepmti celebratory lunch, washed down with a can of Keo or two.
Then last weekend we took H to the Carnival Parade in Paralimni, a nearby town in Famagusta. There are huge parades and celebrations in Limassol during these days prior to Lent, but I find the traffic and crowds far too busy. So off we went to Paralimni, parked a 3 minute walk from the parade area in the centre of town, and set off, armed with tins of silly string, funny hats, daft grins, and suncream – yes in February, yay!
The parade was similar to last year’s, with dance schools and the local businesses taking centre stage with their floats, lots of noise, music, dancing, people in fancy dress, and all-round merriment. A fun day out in the sunshine with my little family of three – precious times indeed.
So what follows Carnival Sunday? Well here in Cyprus (and Greece too), that would be Green/Clean Monday, of course! So called as it is the start of Lent, and celebrations usually take the form of people heading to the beach or open fields to have a picnic and fly their kites. In our village, the Mukhtar (mayor) provides tables and chairs, organises a DJ and sound system, and the municipality provides a free carafe of white or red wine for every picnic table. This takes place up the hill which overlooks the village, and has a playground and built-in BBQ areas, and every year is busy with villagers, their family and friends, celebrating Green Monday. On this day Cypriots (who rarely like to walk anywhere), are encouraged to go out into the fresh air, get some exercise, fly a kite, and use the period of Lent as a chance to breathe the fresh Spring air (of course they all drive up the hill whilst we hardy Brits walk it). This year I did not take any photos, so I will share some from last year, when we headed to the beach after the hill, with our kite.
The picnics are vegetarian (though bloodless fish such as calamari and octopus are allowed), the children are giddy, the beer is cold, the wine & zivania are strong, the music is loud, dancing is compulsory, and the kites are soaring overhead. We don’t usually take a picnic ourselves, but we amble up the hill, go for a wander and fly our kite. This year, every few steps we saw someone that we know, and were invited to eat and drink something with them. H saw several school friends, and children from the village that he knows, and we also had Holly the dog, whom we have been looking after for friends (she was very good and was very spoiled by our friends). Later on we headed to “Friends” bar where according to the Scottish landlady, “there are no strangers, only friends you haven’t yet met”. We plonked our meat by their BBQ (It is a very English type ex-pat bar so they/we are not fasting), and the landlord cooked it to perfection, whilst we met up with other friends and enjoyed a couple of beers in the sunshine. Next year, we have decided to take our own picnic up the hill, we will arrive early and claim our own spot (and free wine, always a bonus!), as living in the village for 3 years now, we truly feel like we are entitled to do so. And we will invite others to eat, drink, and celebrate at our picnic table. Who knows … there may also be some dancing too!
If you are ever in Cyprus before Easter, find out when Tsiknopempti, Carnival, and Green Monday are happening and go join in in the festivities, I can guarantee you will be given a warm welcome, and lots of food. Don’t forget your kite!
Love from Nelly x