Let me translate that for you. Τσικνοπέμπτη. That’s it. Today that is. Today is τσικνοπέμπτη. It is translated into “mardi gras” by one of the electronic dictionaries that my employer makes available to the staff. It’s just that it is not “mardi” today, it is “πέμπτη”, eh “pempti” for you, and that means “thursday” for the rest of us, and not “tuesday” which is of course what “mardi” means. Still with me?
The next part is easier: “τσίκνα”, or tsíkna for you, means “the smell of roasted meat”. Aha, I hear you thinking, that’s where the “gras” is connected. Indeed, tradition wants it that all the houses in Greece today stink with the smell of roasted meat, which for the proper effect must contain a lot of fat, obviously. So, a kind of “jeudi gras” so-to-speak, or “vettendonderdag” for all you bi-linguals. “Fettendonnerstag” anyone?
Together they serve to officially open the carnival season here in Greece. Now, as you all know “carnival” has the words “carne” and “vale”… okay, no, I won’t go that route. You can look that up for yourself. Anyway, as I said, today the crazy week is officially opened with big festivities on every self-respecting plateia in any decent-size town. In Crete this is in Iraklio and probably in Malia and Rethimno. These last two are the Maastricht of the Netherlands or the Aalst of Belgium as far as carnival is concerned. The crazyness — which is obviously imported with the typical Greek enthousiasm for anything that provides an legitimate pretext to get together for drinks and dances — will last until that other famous non-existent-in-any-other-culture special day, καθαρή δευτέρα or Clean Monday, of which I wrote about a year ago.