Today, Thursday 4 March is the pinnacle of carnival time (apokries) in Cyprus and Greece and of course for us UK Cypriots. The special day on the Greek Orthodox Calendar is known as Tsiknopempti (Τσικνοπέμπτη) – a day especially for meat-lovers.
The word comes from τσικνίζω (tsiknizo) which means I ‘sizzle’ and the aroma of ‘tsikna’ (smell of burning meat) fills the street. Traditionally on these days, households cook up a meat fest ahead of Lent though, in recent years, it has been more about visiting the taverna. With COVID-19 however, a return to smaller family tsiknismata has been the case.
The day falls during the second week of apokries, known as kreatini (the meat-eating week) and signals the start of the last weekend of carnival time, with just 11 more days before Clean Monday.
In Greece and Cyprus, people prepare their favourite meat dishes and eateries have special Tsiknopempti menus.
The custom dates back to Dionysian festivals of ancient times when the believers of Dionysos, god of wine and fertility, held pagan celebrations in his honour. Those who took part disguised themselves, drank wine, danced and sang.
The day is also known as Charred Thursday.