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Tsiknopempti

I can hardly believe that we’ve begun celebrations for Lent when it seems we’ve just finished with Christmas/New Year celebrations. I know, I know: it’s middle of February already and I should get a grip. But I just don’t know where the days go.

Yesterday Greeks in Greece and abroad celebrated what is known as Tsiknopempti (pronounced tseek-no-PEMP-tee). Literally translated as the “Thursday of meat grilling,” Tsiknopempti is a celebration of the meat many will forgo for the 40 days of Lent. In Greece, city and town governments arrange barbecues and grills in central squares while musicians walk the streets playing traditional instruments. Here in New York, some gather in local tavernas where they enjoy music and a variety of grilled meats while others celebrate at home. We enjoyed a more low-key celebration–or recognition of the day–at home where we grilled some lamb chops and sausage on the stovetop and served them with some pan-fried potato rounds, braised red cabbage with caramelized onions and grilled pita.

The celebration of meat will continue until this Sunday, known as Meatfare Sunday, while the following week will be centered on cheese and dairy products, culminating with Cheesefare Sunday which falls on March 1st. The Great Lent begins with Kathara Deutera (Clean Monday) on March 2nd. In Greece, people will enjoy this day in parks and along the countryside, flying kites and having picnics. The food served on Kathara Deutera is simple and traditional as it is an important day that symbolizes the start of the Lenten period and the abandonment of meat, cheese and dairy. Meals include taramosalata (fish roe dip), lagana (a yeast-less flat bread), dolmades (vine leaves stuffed with rice), calamari, octopus, mussels and other seafood, salads, halvas in the form of a semolina pudding and Macedonian Halva in the form of candy-like blocks made from tahini, honey and sometimes with swirls of cocoa, chopped almonds or pistachios.

Easter and all the traditions and preparations leading up to it (from the start of Lent through Holy Week), have always been a favorite of mine, both as a small child and as an adult. Memories of Easter preparations and celebrations are my most vivid memories of all and an integral part of my family’s culture. My grandparents and parents held tightly onto these sacred traditions of the Great Lent and Easter they brought here with them from Greece and I am eternally grateful for having been raised with this knowledge and hope to teach my children just as well.

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10 Responses to “Tsiknopempti”

  1. Peter G says:

    A great feast to celebrate the day Maria…I mean who could say no to lamb? Now we have Easter to think about.

  2. Teresa Cordero Cordell says:

    Fascinating information. I love it. So, the Greek Lent period starts on March 2nd? The Catholic Lent period starts the day after “Fat” Tuesday, February 25th. I’ve always believed that giving something up for Lent is honorable, but I strongly believe that doing something more – out of the ordinary is really important too. Like volunteering at the rescue mission or soup kitchen. Either one, Lent is the time for the spring-cleaning of the soul. Great post my friend.

  3. Laurie Constantino says:

    Sounds like you had a fun – and very meaty! – day yesterday. On to meaty Sunday!

  4. JennDZ - The Leftover Queen says:

    All of this sounds so good! I know what you mean though – time really flies.

  5. Ivy says:

    Yes, time does fly so quickly. The Carnival festivities have started here in Athens and the atmosphere is very festive. We had our Tsiknopempti at Psiri.

  6. Mediterranean kiwi says:

    kales apokries to you and your family!

  7. Peter M says:

    Maria, it looks like you lived the Greek meat-lovers paradise!

    Good background on Apokries and Lent…I always enjoy the challenge of eating more Lenten dishes.

  8. jodimop says:

    God I LOOVE Tsiknopempti, but all restaurants are so full in Athens that next week I will go our for fish!

  9. Hopie says:

    Gosh, meat fare sunday already! It does go fast, and Pascha is early this year I guess. Mouth-watering pictures Maria!

  10. gastroanthropologist says:

    Lent already? Where does the time go? I have to admit if taramasalata is on the menu I could forgo meat for a very long time!

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