Clean Monday, sometimes called Ash Monday or Pure Monday, is a day of joy and excitement in Greece and one of the most anticipated days of the year! Greeks call the day “Kathara Deftera”, kathara means clean and Deftera means Monday. This day, each year, is the beginning of the 40-day period of the Great Lent for the Eastern Greek Orthodox Church, while at the same time marking the end of the carnival.
The Great Lent period is called “Sarakosti” because of the 40 days that Jesus is said to have spent fasting the desert.
Clean Monday is a day of strict fasting for Christians, as they are not allowed to eat meat at all, and they are also expected to spend extra time praying during the day.
The first and most common tradition of Clean Monday in Greece of course involves food!
traditional lagana, a special flatbread, and sea food just like octopus, squid and shrimp.
Clean Monday’s traditional sweet is halva, which is made of tahini-sesame paste and sugar, in lots of flavors and the day’s drink is Greek ouzo or tsipouro.
Traditionally, as Clean Monday is considered to mark the beginning of the spring season. Thus, in addition to picnics, there are some other outdoor activities that used to celebrate the day including the widespread custom of building and flying kites, listening traditional music and dancing. These activities are often called ‘koulouma’.
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