Kathara Deftera (Clean Monday) is the first day of Great Lent in the Greek Orthodox Church. Today also brings preceding Carnival celebrations to an end, inviting everyone to leave behind the ‘sinful’ attitudes associated with Carnival festivities and non-fasting foods, which were largely consumed during the last three weeks of the Carnival.
It is a national holiday across Greece today and special events and activities take place in all towns and villages, which feature plenty of music, dancing and delicious vegetarian food, marking the start of this special Greek Orthodox period of fasting and contemplation.
Saracosti, which is the great period of Lent before the Orthodox Easter takes its name from Tessaracoste, which comes from the word forty, which is the forty-day period until Palm Sunday and then one more week until Easter day makes a total of 49 days of “fasting”. During this period we fast so that our bodies and spirits are “cleansed” to prepare for accepting the Resurrection.
During Saracosti, no meat or dairy food is eaten. Lenten food usually consists of plenty of olives, taramasalata, Halva, vegetables, legumes and seafood, such as calamari, octopus, shrimps, oysters, cuttlefish, mussels, lobsters etc. Fish is not allowed with the exception on two occasions: on the 25th of March (Annunciation of the Virgin Mary) and on Palm Sunday.
Each part of Greece has its own traditions.
Clean Monday is a day where families and friends celebrate with outdoor excursions, delicious fasting foods, as well as the widespread custom of flying kites.