ASTORIA – Although the Greek-Orthodox world in now deep into the lenten season, the preparations traditionally include some great Greek parties. The Chian Cultural Center was filled with the friends of Hellenic Public Radio Cosmos-FM for its annual Tsiknopempti event. In English it is called Barbecue Thursday or SmokeyThursday but in Greece, in places like Patras, it marks the beginning of the exciting and colorful carnival celebrations.
Singers Grigori Maninaki and Vicky Palma and the Mikrokosmos Ensemble fueled the evening’s kefi, and international Greek soprano Betty Harlafti made a special guest appearance.
The food and dancing continued until midnight, and earlier Director of Operations Joanna Gianopoulos, Fr. Eugene Pappas, star of the Saturday afternoon program on 91.5 FM WNYE “Matters of Conscience” and Stavros Soussou, GAEPIS’ s board chairman, welcomed and thanked the guests.
Tsiknopempti and carnival lead the faithful into Greek Orthodox Lent. The following week, dietary restrictions begin with the elimination of meat, followed another week later by Kathara Deftera-Clean Monday, when full fasting starts: No meat and dairy, no olive oil and wine, and no fish.
Curiously enough, some seafood lovers get a pass: all the shrimp and lobster they can eat.
It is technically the last opportunity for people to gorge themselves before Greek Orthodox Lent, but Tsiknopempti is now mainly the occasion for fun, music and fellowship.
And even though few people keep strict fasts today outside of monasteries, Tsiknopempti sends a signal that slowing down and paying less attention satisfying one’s appetites is good for for body, mind and soul. It can improve one’s earthly life too, providing people an opportunity to re-examine their lives and move them forward on a better, perhaps happier, basis.
But at Cosmos FM’s Tsiknopempti, it was all OPA!