For meat-lovers, there’s no better day to be in Greece than during the celebration of Tsiknopempti, a special day commemorated every year throughout the country, where Greeks grill and enjoy their favourite meat dishes before entering Easter lent.
The holiday is a part of the Greek Carnival celebrations and signals the start of the last weekend before Sarakosti (40 days of fasting for Easter Lent). In 2021, it takes place today, March 4, which follows the tradition of occurring 11 days before the start of Greek Orthodox Lent, Clean Monday, which will be on Monday, 15th of March.
What does Tsinopemto mean?
Tsiknopempti comes from the word ‘tsikna’, which refers to the smell of cooked or roasted meat, and ‘pempti’, Thursday. It is said that Thursday was chosen by the Greek Orthodox church as traditionally, Wednesday and Friday are considered days of fasting.
Traditions of Tsiknopempti
People all around Greece today prepare and enjoy their most loved meat dishes for Tsiknopempti, which gives it one of its other common names: Smoky Thursday. Most of these meat dishes are grilled on the bbq.
It’s also a popular day for going out to eat and enjoying as many different meats as possible. Most taverns and restaurants serve a special range of meat dishes today and the smell of smoke is in the air on every street corner. If you happen to be in Greece during this time, you will see barbecue grills set up in the streets in front of homes, tavernas, cafes, and restaurants.
Traditional Tsiknopempti Dishes
The most popular meat is of course souvlaki (skewered meat), but there are also BBQ sausages, steaks, chops, kontosouvli and the meat is a range of pork, beef, chicken, veal, and goat.