“Tsiknopempti” and beginning of Carnival in Attica

“Tsiknopempti” (Fat Thursday) is a day of celebration and a great excuse for fun and entertainment in Attica. Meat eating and wine drinking, along with friends and family; music, singing and dancing amidst smoke from the burning barbeques. In every single corner throughout Attica – in cities, villages or on its islands, in neighbourhoods, squares or tavernas and restaurants – you are invited to join in this unique “ritual” of revelry and good food. An experience that will be hard to forget.

“Tsiknopempti” is the traditional Christian feast marking the last Thursday before Lent, the fasting season leading up to Easter. It is essentially the day when the Greek Carnival festivities are launched, reaching their peak on the day of “Koulouma” or Clean Monday (Ash Monday).

“Tsiknopempti” literally translates to Smelly Thursday (or Charred, Smoky Thursday) because of the smell of the grilled meat in the air. The tradition dates back to ancient times, probably from the worship of Bacchus by ancient Greeks and Romans, and survived through Christianity.

The region of Attica encompasses landscapes, people, traditions and customs from all over Greece, composing a colourful and exciting mosaic. Here you will experience the real tradition of “Tsiknopempti”, celebrating the day in a truly authentic way: plenty of meat eating and revelry, traditional music and dances from all over Greece, unique customs that still survive today, children and adult masquerades, joy and fun in the rhythms of Carnival.

Every year, the City of Athens organises a multitude of events on “Tsiknopempti”, highlighting the various Carnival traditions and customs found in Greece. For three days, Syntagma Square transforms into a great stage that hosts concerts, dance performances and events that feature the enactment of old traditions from all over the country, adding to the vibrant rhythm and liveliness of the city.

A music parade starts from Syntagma Square and continues to Ermou and Aiolou streets, before it ends up in Monastiraki. The festivities usually include: Re-enactments of age-old customs, based on local traditions found in the islands and the mainland of Greece, carnival and traditional dances, as well as music concerts with traditional Greek songs.

Alongside the three-day celebrations in Syntagma Square, a great number of cultural and art events take place in various parts of the city, as well as parties, performances, plays and educational programmes for children in museums and cultural centres around Athens.

In every single corner throughout Attica, the feast is set up early in the day: in parks, squares and in every neighbourhood, masquerades show up, plenty of food and wine served and the cheerful and merry atmosphere is all around. In the Saronic islands, this special day is celebrated accordingly: revels in the house yards, street parties with barbeques emitting the desired smelly smoke for the day. And if you happen to walk by, accept the invitation to join in, for a truly memorable experience!

“Tsiknopempti” is the ideal occasion for an excursion or day trip in Attica, which will be certainly combined with a delightful meat eating experience in one of the traditional Greek tavernas. After all, the occasion calls for it! In Eastern Attica, head to Marathon and Vari, or to the tavernas at the main square in Kalyvia that are known for their delicious meat dishes. In Western Attica, you will be thrilled with the good food and live music in Ilion, Bournazi and Petroupoli. In the South, the tavernas in Nea Smyrni, Keratsini and Kastella in Piraeus will offer you extraordinary flavours and a vibrant Carnival atmosphere, while in the North you should definitely try Acharnes, Chassia and the famous tavernas on Parnithos avenue, for a truly amazing meat eating experience.

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