Where will you celebrate Tsiknopempti?
From morning until afternoon, the streets are filled with friendly gatherings, there is barbeque smoke everywhere, the “souvla” experts are cooking nonstop and the costumes are starting to make their first appearances, marking the beginning of the carnival season. In the evening, we go to taverns, meze restaurants and ouzeries, we drink, we eat anything that’s barbequed and have fun while listening to bouzouki tunes. Tsiknopempti, or how it is also known as “the celebration of barbeque”, may be the only day of the year that we all genuinely enjoy; enthusiasts or not. Except for vegetarians of course!
It’s the day that you go to the office wearing your freshly pressed striped shirt, but underneath you are wearing… a superman t-shirt or whatever else you chose to dress up as. It’s the day of the year that the office routine is interrupted with a pleasant break. Business meetings, endless calls and email overload take the back seat for the sake of tradition. Office discussions are focused on just one question: “Which grill restaurant are we going to order from?”, if of course, the team is not organised from the day before for the traditional barbeque on a charcoal grill, with the barbeque smell engulfing every corner of the office.
The Thursday of the second week of Triodion was named after the barbeque smoke and the smell of grilled meat, with meat eating (as well as overeating!) taking over… the agenda of the day. Tsiknopempti is considered to be the last day of meat consumption before the fasting season of Lent, and was chosen as a day of meat eating, because Wednesday and Friday are fasting days in Greek Orthodox tradition.
It also marks the beginning of Carnival, which means “meat abstention”, as the word “carnival” emerged from the Latin phrase “carnem levare” or “carnis levamen”, which mean stopping meat consumption. From Tsiknopempti and until Carnival Sunday, we prepare for the upcoming fasting season by letting loose, wearing masks and dancing to the carnival rhythm.
It is said that the tradition of dressing up in costumes has its roots in Ancient Greece, and in particular the celebration in the name of ancient God Dionysus and the Bacchanalian rituals which were held at the beginning of Spring in order to ward off the evil spirits of winter, so that they would have a good harvest. These celebrations survived with different variations over the years, and from the Christian years to the present, they have evolved into what we all know today. Happy Carnival!