Once a year, on ‘Clean Monday’, the people of Greece celebrate the end of the Carnival period before moving into Lent.
Clean Monday is also known as Pure Monday, Ash Monday, Monday of Lent or Green Monday, and is the first day of Great Lent throughout Eastern Christianity.
The day is a moveable feast, falling on the 6th Monday before Palm Sunday which begins the Holy Week preceding Pascha Sunday.
Although celebrated throughout Greece, nobody celebrates it quite like the residents of Galaxidi, the picturesque village on the north shore of the Corinthian Gulf, near Delphi.
Since the mid-nineteenth century, Galaxidi has held an annual ‘flour war’ or alevromoutzouromata (flour smudging) on Clean Monday whereby the villagers and visitors come together to ‘paint’ the village with brightly coloured flour.
The events dates back to around 1800, at the time of the Ottoman rule, when the residents of Galaxidi risked their lives by defiantly painting their faces with ash and dancing in the street despite the carnival celebration being expressly forbidden.
The real battle begins around 12 noon when all and sundry go to the streets armed with sacks of ‘ammunition’ such as colourfully dyed flour, soot and confetti.
There you will see people of all ages – young and old – covered with coveralls, masks, scarves, hats and bags, descending the narrow streets of Galaxidi, spraying each other with their vibrant ammunition until all are completely covered from head to toe in a multicoloured mess.
There is no need for participants to worry about ammunition, as the flour is a donation from the municipality, while jumpsuits and other accessories of ‘armour’ are sold proudly in the village shops.
Even buildings of Galaxidi require a special plastic wrap for protection, as nobody or nothing can hide from the multicoloured madness.
The celebration is accompanied by music and dancing, and lasts into the night until all the bags of ammunition are empty.