by Carmen Russo
(Photo Pedro Amaro Santos)
Music, balloons, masks and of course souvlakia. This the receipt for the Greek Carnival that took place on the 16th February, in Thessaloniki.
The name of this particular day in Greek is Tsiknopempti, which literally means “Fat Thursday” and according to the tradition is the day when you can “exaggerate” before the period of Apocria (literally without meat). How the Orthodox Religion wants, in fact, you should not eat meat until Easter, but not just that. After the Tsiknopempti, day of the excesses, follows a week called Tyrinì, the week where your diet is based on cheese. In that week it is still possible to eat animal products like milk products and eggs. After and until Easter also these commodities are under the “low of abstinence”.
On holding of this culinary sacrifice fits perfectly the Tsiknopempti, that took place from the celebration of the ancient Greek god Dionysus. This kind of celebrations are known because of the (ab)use of the wine, but also for the manifestation of the freedom under all the points of view.
Nowadays the “excesses” are mostly identified in food specially meat – a lot – in dancing, parting and in explosion of colors in costumes and masks.
Even if the Carnival of Thessaloniki is not the most famous one in all the Greece, the party mood was clear in the streets. A nice and wraparound smell of roast meat in every corner made the city a big picnic spot where in the meantime you could also dance and sing with the locals like in a big open air party.
Drinking beers and ouzo, eating souvlakia, dancing Greek music, all children, teenagers, adults and elder people came together to celebrate the funniest but also one of the deepest days of the year.
What after the “Fat Thursday”? A long weekend to finish all the meat left, before the Cheese Week: the right time to finish also the cheese and the eggs that you have in your house. Than follows a big Carnival parade on the next Sunday and then all ready for the Kathara Deftera: the Purify Monday, a special holyday when people hang out on the beaches or in the countryside eating fish and the typical taramosalata. This day sets forth the start of the Lent.