Tsiknopempti: All you need to know about “Fat Thursday” in Greece

The meaty climax of the Greek Apokrias (From Meat) Carnival spirit is on Thursday

Literal Meaning: “Thursday of the Smoke of Grilled Meat” – “Tsikna” means charred meat and “Pempti” means Thursday.

Other Names: Shrove Thursday, Smoky Thursday, Meat Thursday, Barbecue Thursday

Equivalent Celebrations: Fat Thursday or Mardi Gras

When it takes place? 

It is part of traditional celebrations for the three-week carnival season in Greece, held before Lent begins ahead of Easter. The first week is Profoni (prelude), the second week is Kreatini (meat week), the third week is Tirofagou (cheese week). Tsiknopempti is on the Thursday of the week known as Kreatini, when large amounts of meat are traditionally grilled and consumed before the fasting leading up to Easter. It is celebrated 11 days before Clean or Ash or Pure Monday, marking the start of Lent.


Festival origins

The custom originated from the Dionysian revelry of ancient Greece. As with other ancient rites and rituals, it was incorporated into Christianity.

What is typically done on this day? 

Traditionally, they eat meat. Barbecues are set up at central squares around the country, whereas finding a table at a restaurant is a mighty task…

Local traditions from around Greece:

Corfu – They play the gossip game. Petegoletsa (the gossip) takes place at the piazza (square) near Koukounaria.

Patra – The tradition of Koulourou stems from a tale refering to Yiannoula Koulourou who mistakenly believed that Admiral Wilson was madly in love with her. Each Tsiknopempti, she wears a wedding gown and heads to the port to meet him while people around her jeer.

Serres – Huge bonfires are lit on which to grill meat. People jump over the fires.

Komotini – Engaged couples exchange edible gifts. The groom-to-be sends the bride-tobe a chicken and she sends back baklava and stuffed chicken.

Herakleion, Crete – Young and old masqueraders sing and dance at central squares.


Events being organized

* Plaka, traditionally a carnival hotspot in Athens, has all sorts of events lined up for Tsiknopempti with a celebration kicking off at 9 p.m. A parade starts at the Acropolis metro and heads through to Monastiraki with music and dance. Earlier in the day, expect carnival capers around the region’s central squares. A concert is planned at 7 p.m. in front of the Monastiraki metro. Also at 7 p.m., head to the Angeliki Hatzimichali Museum of Folk Art and Tradition to learn more about GreekCarnival (Apokries) traditions.

* A special evening at the Acropolis Museum’s restaurant with an assortment of exquisite meats and home-made desserts from 8 p.m. to midnight, music accompaniment by the Dimitris Vassilakis Jazz Trio.

* The Maroussi carnival celebrations present traditional Greek dances at 8 p.m. that culminate in one huge Tsiknopempti party with souvlaki at just one euro. Takes place at the Spyros Louis Gym at the corner of  Vas. Olgas and P. Kyriakou sts.

* Cafe Peran has a special program with rembetika and laika music titled “Peran, the Cafe Aman”. Admission at 5 euros. At 20 Dekelias Avenue, Call 210 2533896. Kicks off at 10.30 p.m.

* The Greek Environment and Culture Company (ELLET) has a live music show with food, wine, lottery tickets and many gifts. The event takes place at 28 Tripodon Street Plaka at 9 p.m. Call 210 322 5245. Tickets at 35 euros.

* An all-day carnival party kicks off at 11 a.m. at On Deck’s at Thessaloniki.

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