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Clean Monday – Everything About the Traditional Greek Holiday

The name of this holiday can be quite misleading and might give you the wrong idea. You might think that Greeks spend the day cleaning their homes or taking elaborate showers. In reality, it’s not about either of those things! If you’re in Greece right after the Carnival season, make sure to mark the 7th week before Greek Orthodox Easter Sunday. This is when Clean Monday, a moveable feast, takes place each year. It’s a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself in Greek traditions and customs, making you feel like a true local.

History of Clean Monday

Clean Monday – or Kathara Deftera in Greek – marks the beginning of the Great Lent according to the Greek Orthodox Church. Celebrated immediately after the end of the Carnival, it symbolizes the transition from a period of feasting to one of fasting. As the name implies, Clean Monday encourages people to abandon their indulgent behavior and embrace a more restrained lifestyle. During the Great Lent, dietary restrictions are observed: all kinds of meat and its by-products are avoided until Easter Monday, and some individuals even refrain from consuming olive oil. However, fish and seafood are permitted since they do not contain blood.

Easter is the most significant holiday of the Orthodox Church, as it symbolizes the death of the old self and the promise of a new and pure one; therefore, the body must be prepared and detoxed, while it is a time for prayer and introspection.

Clean Monday Habits

Clean Monday, though a religious holiday, is also a festive occasion! There is a variety of symbolic customs observed on this day, many rooted in the pagan past. Typically, the weather is sunny and warm, prompting many families and friends to head to the hills and parks for picnics. Taverns and cafes are bustling with people enjoying the early signs of spring.

One cherished tradition associated with Clean Monday is flying kites. This nostalgic custom is beloved by all Greeks, and the sight of the bright blue sky filled with colorful kites of all shapes and sizes is simply enchanting. If you wish to join in the kite flying, you’ll find many places where kites are sold, even on the same day.

Food on Clean Monday

If you think that Greeks don’t eat much or well on Clean Monday, you are dead wrong! The arrival of Lent is celebrated with an array of traditional, mouthwatering meatless dishes, many of which are especially loved by vegetarians and vegans. Some of the most popular include fasolada (a delicious black bean soup with tomato sauce), cuttlefish and spinach casserole, taramas (a savory dip made of mashed potatoes and fish eggs that is far tastier than it sounds), lagana (a flatbread perfect for dipping), and halva, a tahini-based dessert so rich in fat, sugar, and flavor that it can easily satisfy any sweet tooth craving a brownie.

Restaurants also prepare special menus for the day, typically featuring many seafood-based dishes such as fried squid, seafood spaghetti, and grilled fish. So, it doesn’t sound much like starving, does it?

Where to spend your Clean Monday in Greece

Clean Monday is a national holiday in Greece, making it the perfect excuse for a long weekend getaway! Here are some suggestions on where to go if you are visiting or staying in Athens during that time:

  1. Filopappos Hill: Located close to the Acropolis, this hill offers a wide green area and has become an ideal spot to spend Clean Monday enjoying a picnic with a stunning view of Athens.

  2. South Suburbs of Attica: Head to the southern suburbs for fresh fish at a seaside restaurant. Athens boasts a beautiful coastline, perfect for leisurely walks and enjoying the early spring weather.

  3. Saronic Islands: Take a day trip to one of the Saronic Islands, known for their quaint architecture and lovely beaches. A day tour to Hydra and Aegina comes highly recommended for their charm and proximity to Athens.

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