NICOSIA,  (Xinhua) — The city of Limassol in southern coastal Cyprus was turned into a huge open cooking place on Thursday as thousands of households and businesses cooked meat on turning skewers over charcoal to mark “Tsiknopempti”, the first day of the carnival season.

“Tsiknopempti” literally means “Grill Thursday” or “Smelly Thursday” because of the smell of meat being cooked in open coal stoves.

The meat was offered to passersby along with a drink, usually a glass of wine or cognac.

The custom is related to the sacrifices offered by ancient Greeks to gods to win their favor or avoid their anger.

The day marks the beginning of the carnival season lasting ten days until the big carnival procession on March 1.

Limassol is one of the listed carnival cities, with its carnival procession going back more than 100 years.

The central part of Limassol was closed to traffic and the streets were filled by pedestrians reveling by eating, singing and dancing or listening to bands touring the city.

The event of the day was the crowning ceremony of the King of the Carnival in the evening on Thursday, in the presence of past Carnival Kings, and later his entrance into the city.

The Carnival King this year plays the role of a Hindu Maharaja sitting on top of a huge elephant, and surrounded by dancing girls in colorful Hindu costumes.

His float passed through the main streets of Limassol, followed by thousands of masqueraded men, women and children and several music bands.

Each night until the Carnival procession on March 1 there will be dance events in hotels and night spots and also in public places, such as squares.

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