The dietary customs during Carnival season in Greece

In our previous article 5 places to visit during the Greek Carnival season, we saw some of the unique customs and happenings across the country. In this article, we will go through the dietary customs during Carnival season.

Apokries -the Greek word for Carnival- literally means “abstention from meat”. It is not a coincidence considering that the beginning of Carnival signals the opening of “Triodion”, a three weeks season named after the liturgical book used by the church from then until the Holy Week. In other words, the carnival season is the preparation period before the Great Lent. Throughout Triodion, a lot of Greeks follow the dietary practices dictated by the holy traditions.


Celebrating “Tsiknopempti”, Fat Thursday, with meat skewers. Photo by MariaPolna, licensed.


The meat-eating week & Fat Thursday

During the first two weeks of Carnival, the consumption of meat is permitted. In particular, the first week is called “Prophoni” (preannouncement week) because it signals the beginning of Triodion. The second one is “Kreatini” (Meatfare week), and it is the last week people can eat meat. Traditionally during this week, the families consume all the animal food available in the household. The high point of Kreatini week is “Tsiknopempti” (Fat Thursday). The word “Tsikna” means the smell of the grilled meat and “Pemti” is the Greek word for Thursday. We call it Tsiknopemti because of the smell in the air during that day. Friends and family gather together to have a proper BBQ at home, or they celebrate the day at local tavernas, where they are served all kinds of grilled meat and plenty of wine! It is a great feast before the great fasting!


Gigantes a traditional dish with giant beans. Photo by Dimitris Siskopoulos, flickr.com


The cheese & dairy eating week

The last week of the season is called “Tyrini” (Cheesefare week). It is the week before Lent, so everyone gets prepared for the transition. During that period the consumption of meat stops and the everyday diet consists of dairy products, along with fish, seafood, legumes and vegetables. The end of the week leads to Clean Monday. The common term for this day refers to the leaving of sinful attitudes and non-fasting foods behind. It signals the beginning of Great Lent that lasts until Easter Sunday.


Taramosalata (fish roe salad), a traditional dish of Clean Monday’s table. Photo by topsyntages.gr, flickr.com


Clean Monday, the beginning of the Lent

Clean Monday is well celebrated everywhere in Greece. Every municipality organises events, the  “Koulouma”, where all the neighbours gather to enjoy each others company along with food, music, dancing and kite flying! It is a custom to celebrate Koulouma outside or better yet in the countryside, though, it is not uncommon for families and friends to gather at home and enjoy an extravagant meal there.

The table of Clean Monday usually consists of legumes – largely the Greek, giant beans “Gigantes” or the traditional bean soup“Fasolada – and seafood. One typical dish that’s never missing from Clean Monday’s table is “Taramosalata” (fish roe salad), which is a delicious spread of fish eggs. Nonetheless, the culinary highlight of the day is a type of bread, the famous “Lagana”. Lagana is a flatbread that does not consist of any type of butter or milk and is covered with sesame seeds. The bakeries prepare this bread only once a year, on Clean Monday. Check out Lemon & Olives’ article about Clean Monday and the beginning of Lent, where you will also find a recipe to make your own Lagana bread!


Lagana, the traditional flatbread baked only on Clean Monday. Photo by Andrzej_22, licensed.


The Carnival season in Greece is one full of festivities, unique customs and loads of food! If you find your self in the country during that period do not hesitate to rent a car, drive in the countryside, and celebrate with the locals!

Post feaured photo by Klearchos Kapoutsis, licensed