Tsiknopempti, the Greek Orthodox equivalent of the Catholic Fat Thursday, literally means “Thursday of the Smoke of Grilled Meat,” with tsikna translating to “charred meat” and Pempti to “Thursday.”

Tsiknopempti, among the traditional celebrations during the Greek Orthodox carnival season, takes place eleven days before Clean Monday, a meatless feast held the day before Lent, a forty-day period during which the faithful abstain from meat and culminating with the lamb feasts held on Easter Sunday.

Originating in an ancient Greek Dionysian rite and incorporated into Christian tradition, Tsiknopempti takes place on the Thursday of Kreatini (“Meat Week”), the second of the three weeks of the Carnival season; the first week is Profane (“Prelude”), and the third is Tirofagou (“Cheese Week”).

On Tsiknopempti celebrants traditionally feast on grilled meat, or souvlaki, and set up grills, or souvlas, in various town squares and public spaces, with wine, music, and general revelry.