Tsiknopempti: Smokey Fat Thursday – Time to Feast!!
In Ancient Greece, Dionysus, God of wine, was celebrated with street parties and dressed-up processions. This custom has survived through centuries all over the world, evolving to today’s Carnival or Apokria, which marks the beginning of Lent, the fasting period before Easter.
In Cyprus, the Carnival is celebrated all over the island. Tsiknopempti or Fat Thursday marks the official opening of the Carnival celebrations with “tsiknomata” (meat barbecues) and impromptu parties. The name Tsiknopempti derives from the words tsiknoma (the smell of barbequed meat) and Pempti (Thursday). On this day, locals consume all the meat they have stocked at home, as Lent starts a few days later.
On Tsiknopemti preparations start early in the morning and every household, business, workplace, school and neighborhood organizes the great feast. A foukou (portable grill) is fired up outside every store, house or workplace and though it is a working day, a few people actually work. A foukou can grill all kinds of meat, such as souvla (large chunks of pork, lamb or chicken on the spit), souvlaki (smaller chunks of pork or chicken on the spit), sausages and halloumi (Cyprus goat cheese). Walking in towns and villages, you may smell this “tsikna” everywhere.
In the afternoon, the party escalates with a big street party in Lemessos city centre, where people welcome the King or Queen of Carnival. The King or Queen is a different person every year and is chosen by the municipal council based on his/her contribution to the carnival tradition of the city. This title is a great honour and a great recognition for each year’s Carnival King/Queen.
Apart from dancing and partying, serenade-singers give a romantic, retro touch to the day. Serenades are traditionally sung by male choirs, usually accompanied by the mandolin and the guitar. Serenade choirs have a long history and tradition in Lemessos, hence the Limassol Carnival is included in the Cyprus Intangible Heritage List of UNESCO.
Carnival events continue for ten days and escalate on Shrove Sunday with Carnival parades in different cities, attracting thousands of participants, locals and foreigners alike.
It’s time to paint the town red. So join in and enjoy parties, funny and colorful costumes, confetti and happy faces. Work, stress and troubles can wait until the carnival finishes!
Note: This year’s Tsiknopempti is on 16/02/2023