Tsiknopempti (Fat Thursday)
In Greece, the majority of people follow a 40-day period of fasting (Σαρακοστή) before the Greek Easter (Πάσχα) but a few weeks earlier than that, they all get super excited with the Greek carnival! That is why you should read this:
Tsiknopempti (Τσικνοπέμπτη) which literally translates to Thursday (Πέμπτη) of the smoke of the grilled meat (τσίκνα) is celebrated 11 days before Clean or Ash or Pure Monday, marking the start of Lent for Easter. According to Greek tradition, on that Thursday, people all over Greece eat large quantities of grilled meat (souvlakia and other delicacies) and everywhere you go, you will find grills put outside of stores or houses and you will smell the meat being grilled in every neighborhood. In different regions of Greece, on that day, a lot of events take place, some of them finding their roots in Dionysian and ancient Greek rituals.
Tsiknopempti is directly linked to Apokries (Αποκριές), the traditional celebrations for the three-week carnival season in Greece, held before Lent. The first week of the Apokries, ending on Sunday of Asotus, is also called Profoni (Προφωνή), because during this week, they used to cry out that the Carnival had begun. The second week is called Kreatini or Kreatofagou (Κρεατινή ή της Κρεοφάγου), because they ate meat and did not fast on Wednesday or Friday. This week is celebrated with feasts and food without any religious limitations. The third week is called Tirini or Tirofagou (Τυρινή ή της Τυροφάγου), because they ate dairy products as an intermediate state between fast and eating meat to slowly prepare for the fasting of Lent. Tsiknopempti is on the Thursday of the week known as Kreatini.
During Carnival, a lot of events are organized throughout Greece. The most probably known event is the Carnival of Patras and climaxes in the last weekend of Carnival with the Saturday evening parade of carnival groups, the extravagant Sunday parade of floats and groups, and finally the ritual burning of the carnival king at the St. Nikolaos Street pier in the harbor of Patras.
So, if you happen to be in Greece during the Apokries period or on Tsiknopempti, don’t miss out on the festivities! Go out and have fun!