Cheese Week 2024: All About Dairy, Traditions, and Lent Prep

Kasiata, cheese pie from Metsovo tiropita

Calling all cheese lovers! Get ready to rejoice because Cheese Week, also known as Tyrini Week, is upon us this year from March 11th to March 17th, 2024.

But what exactly is it?

Cheese Week is like a warm-up for Lent, the 40-day fasting period in Christianity. During this week, Christians traditionally avoid meat but indulge in all things dairy—think cheese, milk, eggs, you name it! You can also enjoy fish throughout the week.

Greece produces a lot of cheese, at least 70 different regional kinds. They fall into several broad categories, such as brine cheeses; naturally fermented soft, sour cheeses; yellow cheeses; goats, sheep, and cow’s milk cheeses. Each region of Greece has its own kind of cheese preference however the most popular seem to be Feta, Kefalograviera, Kaseri and Mizithra.

Cheese is also used in many popular Greek recipes, including Tiropita, prawn saganaki, spanakopita, Galatopita and Galaktoboureko. Greeks are actually known as being amongst the greatest consumers of cheese in Europe.

Tyrini is an “in-between” week liturgically in the Orthodox Church. Each day prepares the faithful for Great Lent.

During Tyrini, the custom is to eat and make dishes using dairy products like milk, yogurt, and, of course, cheese! Because this is the period right before Great Lent, it is also the time to eat all dairy products in your fridge before going into Sarakosti.

Tiropita Tradtional Greek Cheese Pie 1 2
Cheese Week 2024: All About Dairy, Traditions, and Lent Prep 3

Here's a quick rundown of the food and traditions:

Food Fun:

  • Dairy Delights: Stock up on cheese, yogurt, milk, and eggs. It's a dairy lover's paradise from March 11th to March 17th!
  • Fishy Feast: Feel free to have fish any day of the week.
  • Weekend Indulgence: Oil and wine are allowed on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as on the feast of the Forty Martyrs.

Traditions to Try:

  • Remembering Loved Ones: On the Saturday of Cheese Week (March 16th, 2024), some people prepare small, round bread called "psychoudia" to share at cemeteries.
  • Cheese Week Feast: On Cheese Week Sunday (March 17th, 2024), a typical lunch might include tyrozoumi (whey soup), codfish, and galopita (cheese pie). Dinner can feature macaroni with myzithra cheese, fried codfish, and a glass of wine.
  • A Fun Arcadian Tradition: If you're single and looking for love, an Arcadian tradition suggests placing a piece of macaroni under your pillow on Cheese Week Sunday night (March 17th, 2024). Who knows, you might dream about your future spouse!
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More About Cheese Week:

  • Cheese Week is part of the Triodion, a three-week period leading up to Lent that focuses on spiritual preparation.
  • The rules about fasting get stricter as the Triodion progresses.
  • By the end of Cheese Week (March 17th), it's time to say goodbye to meat for Lent!

So, there you have it! Cheese Week is a time to enjoy delicious dairy foods, participate in interesting traditions, and prepare for the upcoming Lenten season.

There are a few ways to say "Cheese Week", depending on the language:

  • English: Cheese Week (most common)
  • Greek: Τυρινή εβδομάδα (Tyrinή evdomada) - pronounced tee-ree-NEE ehv-THO-mah-tha

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