It’s Tsiknopempti, a day of fun and gluttony. The Greeks everywhere gather for festive meals with family and friends. Tavernas, grills and restaurants are packed, with long queues forming at their doorsteps. For those who opt to stay home but not cook their own meat, delivery scooters zip up and down every street, laden with packages. The smell of grilled meat comes from every corner, giving the day its name (Tsiknopempti = Thursday that smells of grilled meat).
So what is this meat-eating frenzy, asks the hapless visitor – who wouldn’t mind having dinner sometime, if only an available seat could be found.
Tsiknopempti falls in the second week of the Carnival and is the day next to last when meat can be consumed by an Orthodox before the great Lenten fast (the last one is the coming Saturday). While the heathen part of the Carnival is in full swing (costume parties, parades, pagan rituals) the religious part gradually prepares the faithful for the 48 days of fasting, prayer and penance that Lent is.
Needless to say, the prospect of going vegetarian and then vegan for so long makes people crave more for the food they’ll be soon deprived of. Not that Greeks need much prodding for a festive gathering over food 😉
And what about Greek vegetarians and vegans? What do they do on this day? Obviously, being Greeks, they wouldn’t miss a chance to celebrate. And though the options on the menu may be slightly different, they are no less tasty.
Lastly, we need to mention that, although a money-maker, the day is a difficult one for everyone in the food service industry. In my last picture, a gyros cook rests exhausted after a long days’ work, his gyros eaten to the last morsel.