THE COCHIN CARNIVAL COMPLETED 35 YEARS ON JANUARY 1, 2020!
Head to Kerala for one of the most happening New Years party destinations around the world! The Cochin Carnival is a ten-day carnival which culminates on New Years that is full of colourful costumes, parties, parades elephants and Hijras.
“The mask that burns like a violin, the mask that sings only dead languages, that loves the destruction of being put on. The mask that sighs like a woman even though a woman wears it.”
Cochin Carnival is the time of year when the city of Kochi, India transforms into a madhouse. It is a 10-day celebration that leads up to the New Year and sees an array of activities and events. The Cochin Carnival is about celebrating life in all its vigour.
Cochin Carnival is held annually in mostly in the last two weeks of December in the lead up to New Years Eve with celebrations culminating on the 1st of January. The official 2019-2020 Cochin Carnival dates start on the 25th December 2019 and finish on 1st January 2020.
The city of Kochi located in the Indian state of Kerala, sits on the south west coast of India and borders the Laccadive Sea. Fort Kochi is the centre of all the Cochin Carnival activities that occur during the Cochin Carnival. Fort Kochi is a region within the city of Kochi. The local people of Kochi are called Kochiites and are known for their vibrant lifestyle which is elevated during carnival. The Cochin Carnival brings lots of joy and merriment to the people and the energy levels in the city rise during carnival.
During the Cochin Carnival the town is all beautifully decorated and lit up. Literally every part of the city is full with colourful lights, graffiti work and Christmas decorations. The streets become alive with gorgeous processions full of colourful costumes, and embellished elephants. There is lots of music and dance, and lots and lots of merrymaking and fun occurring.
The carnival begins with the carnival flag being hosted at Vasco da Gama Square. The carnival has lots of impressive events like food festivals, art shows, music concerts, sport events and so much more to enhance the festive spirit.
Preparations for Cochin Carnival begin months in advance with parties, fairs, games, dance competitions and fancy-dress parades. The festival finishes with the burning of a huge giant effigy who represents Santa Clause on New Years Eve.
Cochin Carnivals origins actually date back to when the Portuguese used to rule over the area from 1503 to 1663. The Portuguese used to welcome the New Year with lots of grand parties and festivities. Fort Kochi was actually the capital city for the Portuguese colonisers at the time and hence the main place for the celebrations.
This tradition actually died out after the end of colonial rule but only to be revived in the 20th century. Three young locals revived this celebration back in 1984 to honour the UN’s declaration of the ‘International Year of the Youth’ and were supported by over 150 youth groups and organisations.
Cochin Carnival has five main principals which are Participation, Peace, Progress, Adventure and Environment, which are the essence of carnival. Because of these principals Kochi is decorated in white decorations, which is the official carnival colour because white symbolises peace.
“The mask beaded with freshwater pearls, with seeds. The plumed mask, the mask with a sutured mouth, a moonface, with a healed gash that means harvest.”
When the clock strikes twelve on midnight NYE, the giant carnival effigy of Papaanji is burnt. Papaanji is a giant effigy of old man who resembles Santa Clause. This symbolically casts away evil and bids goodbye to the previous year and ushers in the new year. There is also an incredible NYE firework show and a massive gala party.
BURNING OF PAPPANJI
Burning of Pappanji is a public celebration on the midnight of December 31 to usher in New Year’s festivities and carnival at Fort Kochi. Pappanji, Portuguese for ‘old man', is the effigy of a suited and booted, old man symbolising the passing of the old year, and is rooted in the Portuguese, Dutch and other European influences on Fort Kochi. Read more>>
“A glower that hides wanting. A grotesque pucker. Here’s a beaked mask, a braided mask, here’s a mask without eyes, a mask that looks like a mask but isn’t—please don’t try to unribbon it.”
The New Years Day Procession is the highlight of the event and attracts the largest crowds. The procession is led by beautifully decorated elephants. It is a colourful procession featuring incredible performances from talented folk musicians, artists and dancers. The procession is an amalgamation of different Indian cultures including Anglo Indian, Gujarati and Konkani.
Cochin Carnival also has a competitive element to it. There are various games to compete in including beach football, beach volleyball, a bike race, sea swimming and even a tug a war. The events are good spirited fun and while the winners get prizes, the competition is more about the spirit of participation.
“The mask that snows coins, the mask full of wasps. Lace mask to net escaping thoughts. Pass me the rouged mask, the one made of sheet music. Or the jackal mask, the hide-bound mask that renders lovers identical with night.”
If you are coming from overseas you can fly to the Cochin International Airport which is about 40km away from Fort Kochi and is a well-connected airport. If you are coming domestically you can easily take a train as there are two major train stations in Kochi – Ernakulam Junction and Ernakulam Town.
The best way to get around carnival is on foot. There is plenty of local transport that can get you to Fort Kochi if you are not staying close by it’s very easy to use cabs to get around the city.
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