40 days before Easter, Orthodox Greeks begin a fasting period that will lead to the biggest religious feast in Greece, which is none other than Easter itself. The first day of this particular fasting period is Clean Monday or as we call it here in Greece “Kathará Deftéra”. It’s a national holiday, schools and public services are closed, and if it’s possible most people leave the city to celebrate this certain day. Those who stay at the city go to parks, or the sea side if there is one, and do what everyone else in the country is doing: flying a kite!
It’s a tradition to fly a kite on this day. Preparations begin day
s before, where children try to make the biggest and most impressive kite. On Kathará Deftéra day the skies are full of colorful kites and on the ground kids are screaming with excitement watching their kites go higher.
But why is this day called Clean Monday? And what do
we Greeks eat on this day?
It is called “Clean” because it’s the beginning of a Lenten period whose purpose is to clean the Christian spiritually and physically. During this period no animal product is consumed. Neither meat nor eggs or any dairy product can be eaten.
On Clean Monday it is a custom to eat a flat bread called “lagána”. On that particular day (and no other!) you can find it in every bakery in the land.
Other popular dishes are:
Taramosaláta: A unique Greek dip made with cod roe.
Dolmádes yialantzí : Stuffed vine leaves, very popular here in Greece
Yíyantes : Butter beans baked in the oven
Simple lettuce salads and olives as well are served.
The dessert of the day is Halvá, a chewy sweet made with tahini and sweet syrup.
So if you happen to be in Athens on Clean Monday, look at the sky and follow the kites! Visit the hillsides of the city or the coast line and you’ll find us enjoying probably another sunny day!
Photo Courtesy of Oliver Seidel, http://olivermuc.com/