Clean Monday, also known as Kathara Deftera in Greek, is a significant religious and cultural holiday in Greece that marks the beginning of Lent. It is celebrated on the first Monday of Lent, seven weeks before Easter. Clean Monday is a day of purification, forgiveness, and renewal, and it is a time for Greeks to clean their souls and bodies in preparation for the upcoming Lenten season.
Clean Monday traditions in Greece are unique and diverse, and they vary from region to region. However, some customs are common throughout the country, and they make Clean Monday a special and unforgettable experience.
One of the most distinctive traditions of Clean Monday is flying kites. Greeks of all ages gather on the beaches, parks, and hillsides to fly kites, which symbolize the soaring of the human spirit towards God. The kites are usually made of paper or fabric, and they come in different colors and shapes. The sky on Clean Monday is filled with colorful kites of all sizes, making it a beautiful and joyous sight.
But why we fly kites on ‘Kathara Deytera’?
Following the Dionysian spree of Apokries, flying signifies the ascension and purification of the soul. From a Christian point of view, it is symbolic of the human spirit flying into the skies and getting closer to God.
This tradition probably originated in China, where it is still popular today. People in Asian countries flew kites of square or cylindrical shape during religious ceremonies and rituals, to keep demons away. They believed that the higher the kite flew, the luckier they would be. Kites may have also existed in Ancient Greece.
Another tradition of Clean Monday is eating Lenten foods. Greeks fast for forty days before Easter, and Clean Monday is the first day of their Lenten diet. Traditional Clean Monday dishes include lagana, a special flatbread that is only made on this day, taramosalata, a dip made of fish roe, octopus, grilled vegetables, and beans. These dishes are delicious and healthy, and they reflect the Greek philosophy of balance and harmony between body and soul.
Apart from flying kites and eating Lenten foods, Clean Monday is also a time for outdoor activities and sports. Greeks love to spend time in nature, and Clean Monday is an excellent opportunity for them to go on picnics, hike, bike, and play games. The weather on Clean Monday is usually sunny and mild, and the scenery is breathtaking, making it an ideal day for outdoor fun and relaxation.
Clean Monday is a time for forgiveness and reconciliation. Greeks visit their friends and relatives and ask for forgiveness for any wrongdoings they have committed. It is a time to mend broken relationships, heal old wounds, and start anew. Clean Monday reminds Greeks of the importance of forgiveness and compassion, and it strengthens the bonds of love and friendship.
One of the most popular Clean Monday traditions is the custom of “flour wars” or “alevromoutzouromata” in Greek. This tradition involves people throwing bags of colored flour at each other, creating a colorful cloud of dust that fills the streets and alleys of the island. The flour wars are a fun and playful way to celebrate the start of Lent, and they attract locals and tourists alike.
On Clean Monday in Santorini locals and visitors can enjoy a variety of Lenten dishes, including fava, a delicious and creamy yellow split-pea puree, and tomatokeftedes, deep-fried tomato balls made with herbs and spices.
Clean Monday in Santorini is also a time for outdoor activities and exploration. The island’s natural beauty and picturesque villages are ideal for hiking, cycling, and walking tours. Visitors can also explore the island’s ancient ruins, churches, and museums, which offer a glimpse into Santorini’s rich history and culture.
Finally, Clean Monday is an occasion for spiritual reflection and prayer in Santorini. The island has several beautiful churches and monasteries, including the Monastery of Prophet Elias, which is perched on the highest point of the island and offers breathtaking views of the Aegean Sea. Clean Monday is a time for locals and visitors to attend church services, light candles, and seek spiritual guidance and strength for the upcoming Lenten season.
In conclusion, Clean Monday is an important and meaningful holiday in Greece that combines religious, cultural, and social traditions. It is a day of purification, forgiveness, and renewal, and it reflects the Greek values of balance, harmony, and community. Clean Monday is a unique and unforgettable experience, and it is a time for Greeks to connect with their past, their present, and their future.
Panagiotis Inglesis is the co-owner and General manager of Athina Luxury Suites, along with his wife Mrs.Artemis Argyrou. Together they had a vision to create one of the best boutique hotels in Santorini and today they continue their vision…Athina Luxury Suites is considered one of the top hotels on the island.