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Fat Thursday is an important day in Greece that happens on the last Thursday before Lent. Fat Thursday (also known as Tsiknopempti) is a day of celebration in Greece, where people gather with friends and family to eat meat and celebrate the start of Lent.
A brief history of the Fat Thursday (Tsiknopempti)
It is called Fat Thursday because it was traditionally the last chance to eat meat before abstaining during Lent and holy Easter. Greeks celebrate Fat Thursday by enjoying a variety of delicious meats and other dishes. Popular Fat Thursday dishes include souvlakia, gyros, lamb, pork, and sausages—all usually served with wine or ouzo.
The habit evolved from ancient Greece’s Dionysian revelry. It was integrated into Christianity, as were other ancient ceremonies and rituals.
The day is also celebrated with parties, singing, and dancing. Fat Thursday is an important day for Greeks, as it marks the beginning of Lent and a chance to come together with friends and family to celebrate. Many traditions associated with Fat Thursday are still carried out, making it a unique part of Greek culture.
When is Fat Thursday celebrated?
It is part of the traditional festivities for Greece’s three-week carnival season, which takes place before Lent starts in preparation for Easter. Profoni (prelude) is the first week, Kreatini (meat week) is the second, and Tirofagou is the third (cheese week). Tsiknopempti occurs on Kreatini Thursday when enormous quantities of meat are usually grilled and devoured before the fasting leading up to Easter. It is observed 11 days before Clean or Ash or Pure Monday, marking Lent’s beginning.
Some local customs
Tsiknopempti is accompanied by other customs all over Greece. You will be lucky enough to witness the famous “Korfiatika,” a hilarious custom in which people gather in the streets and squares and recreate gossip scenes to parody politicians or celebrities.
Locals in Thebes, near Athens, have revived the practice of “Vlahikos Gamos,” a wedding ceremony with origins in the ancient worship of God Dionysus. In Patras, hundreds of people set up barbecues throughout the city and serve meals to passers-by.
What do we usually eat on this day?
Meat reigns supreme, with a focus on grilled meats and the odd stew pot visible.
Tsiknopempti meals will be available at several restaurants and almost every traditional pub. The most popular food will be some souvlaki – meat on a stick. These are nearly everywhere. Be cautious not to stumble into an unexpected grill mainly concealed by smoke while sharing the already limited streets and sidewalks!
By far, the most popular food will be some variant of souvlaki, which will be available everywhere, from major towns to small villages and isolated islands, with people lined up to get their hands on some meat on a skewer.
Aside from the typical grilling, each area of Greece has its unique rituals and traditions that are observed on this day each year.
It is clear that today is one of the busiest days for butchers around Greece, and Greek homes will be preparing and enjoying their favorite grilled meat dishes, causing a cloud of smoke to form where it is cooked.
The tradition of Tsiknopempti is also known as “Smoke Thursday,” “Smoked Thursday,” “Smoky Thursday,” as well as “Barbecue Thursday” or “Grilled Thursday” by others.
So if you’re ever in Greece on Fat Thursday (based on the Greek Orthodox church calendars), join in on the festivities and help to keep unique traditional celebrations like this alive! Fat Thursday is a day of celebration, feasting, and joy in Greece—a perfect way to start the Lenten season.
Enjoy your favorite meat dishes!