It’s that time of year again, New Yorkers. Time to hop on the train, get down to Coney Island and remember that this concrete jungle is literally surrounded by water. Summer in the City is here and it’s time to get outside and embrace your mischievous nature at the 34 annual Mermaid Parade, in Coney Island on June 18th, 2016 from 1-4pm.
The Mermaid Parade is the nation’s largest “art parade” and Coney Island’s busiest day of the year, with tens of thousands of spectators expected along the parade route, and it’s not too hard to see why the Mermaid Parade is so popular. With over 3,000 mermaid “subjects,” quirky floats, antique cars, and some of the most creative handmade costumes you’ll ever see, the Mermaid Parade definitely fulfills its goal of “bringing mythology to life.”
The chance to glimpse a mermaid has enticed people for centuries, but, like so many things, the original story of the mermaid begins in the Mediterranean…
The First Mermaids
Ever since men could sail, they’ve been telling tales of the sea. Naturally, the first myths and legends of lonely sailors in the Mediterranean included accounts of beautiful elusive sea nymphs that existed just out of reach. However, the first mermaids were a far cry from our modern concept of the friendly energetic men and women at the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. In fact, the original mermaids were downright deadly.
Siren Song of the Sea
The original Greek name for mermaid—“Seirén”—is related to the word for rope and literally means “ones who tie or grab.” Since their creation, mermaids have been hazardous creatures that enchant and fascinate anyone who sees—or hears—them. In Homer’s Odyssey—the first written account of mermaids—Odysseus has to literally tie himself to the mast to avoid drowning himself to reach the singing mermaids because of their irresistible siren song (there’s that whole “rope” thing again).
Even though the concept of the mermaid has changed across the globe over the years—in Scotland mermaids are half salmon, in ancient China pearls were mermaid tears, and mermaids were funeral emblems in Assyrian empire—mermaids never cease to capture our imagination.
The Mediterranean Mermaid: Between Two Worlds
The mermaid, a creature that exists between two worlds—both land and sea—is an excellent symbol of the fluid, ever-changing culture and history that makes the Mediterranean itself so captivating. Every Mediterranean nation from Greece to Morocco calls this sea home. Each is tied to it for food, for trade, and for stories that have thrill and excite people for millennia, and will enchant us for millennia to come.
At Nanoosh, we love mermaids, because they remind us that just like them, New York exists between two worlds—city and ocean, concrete streets and Coney Island sand. Pack some traditional Mediterranean hummus, take the train to the beach this summer and remember to enjoy all the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations that New York has to offer, because like mermaids, the great summer weather will be gone in the blink of an eye.