Cochin Carnival (Dec 20-Jan 2) is the biggest carnival festival in the city. It started in 1582 as a part of Portuguese New Year’s celebrations. A wonderful array of colourful rallies, fancy dress parades, regular competitions, bike races, beach games, sports, theme festivals, concerts and dances, fireworks and most important, the night beach parties, make it one of the largest celebrations in India. The New Year’s Eve party is the highlight of this festival, when a large parade carrying a huge statute of Papanai (a Santa Claus-like image) is taken to the beach, where it is set on fire at midnight. This is followed by a grand party. The carnival ends with the Grand Parade on the afternoon of January 1st.
Onam Festival (ten day festival from mid-August to mid-September). The state festival of Kerala originating in Kochi. It is based on the legend of welcoming home the mythical King Mahabali, whose capital was believed to be at the current site of Thrikakkara Temple. The ten day festivities start off with a parade on Atham day called Athachamayam. It is held in Thripunithura starting from the Atham Grounds and has many tableaux, dance parades, cultural art forms ending at Thrikakkara Temple.
Shiva Temple Festival (first week of January), takes place at the Shiva Temple and Durbar Hall Ground, famous for its ten elephant parade and host of cultural activities. The last day of the festival, Pakalpooram, is famous for its traditional Kerala percussion ensemble, a huge display of fireworks and a 21 gun salute by the Indian Navy and Kerala Police.
Fireworks Festival of Maradu Kottaram Devi Temple(mid March – mid April), hosts India’s second largest fireworks as part of their temple festival finale. The festival takes place in the festival grounds of Maradu, which has mega fireworks display lasting for 1.5 hours on the last two days.
Thripunithura Vrishikolsavam (mid November – mid December) at Thripunithura Poornathresya Temple is the grandest temple festival, after Thrissur Pooram. This was once the royal festival of the Kochi Kingdom. The cultural attractions draw huge crowds with regular performances of Kathakali.
Chendamangalam Matta Chanda (2 days prior to Vishu Festival) near Chendamangalam Fort, is the only official barter market in the world, a reminiscent of olden market style. The recorded history of this market is nearly 300 years old, where traditional & heritage items are sold in exchange of modern items of equal value. Matta Chanda is a tourism attraction and a traditional ritual rather than serious shopping, hence only traditional Kerala specialties can be brought in exchange of modern and regular items like branded soaps, perfumes, clothes, hair accessories, electronic components, batteries, medicines, as agreed mutually buyer and seller.