Clean Monday (Greek: Καθαρά Δευτέρα), also known as Pure Monday, Ash Monday, Monday of Lent or Green Monday, is the first day of the Eastern Orthodox Christian and Eastern Catholic Great Lent. It is a movable feast that occurs at the beginning of the seventh week before Orthodox Easter Sunday.
A common term for this day, Clean Monday, refers to the leaving behind of sinful attitudes and non-fasting foods. It is sometimes called Ash Monday, by analogy with Ash Wednesday (the day when the Western Churches begin Lent).
Liturgically, Clean Monday – and thus Lent itself – begins on the preceding Sunday night at a particular service called Forgiveness Vespers, which culminates with the Ceremony of Mutual Forgiveness, at which all present will bow down before one another and ask for forgiveness. In this way, the faithful begin Lent with a clean conscience, forgiveness, and renewed Christian love. The entire first week of Lent is often called Clean Week, and it is customary to go to confession during this week and clean the house thoroughly.
This Sunday also brings preceding Apokries (Carnival) celebrations to an end, inviting everyone to leave behind the ‘sinful’ attitudes associated with Carnival festivities and non-fasting foods, consumed mainly during the last three weeks of the Carnival.
It is a national holiday across Greece this Monday, and special events and activities will take place in all towns and villages.
There is usually music, dancing and delicious vegetarian food, marking the start of this particular Greek Orthodox period of fasting and contemplation.
Saracosti, the significant period of Lent before the Orthodox Easter, takes its name from Tessaracoste, which comes from the word forty, which is the forty days 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 prohibited except on two occasions: on the 25th of March (Annunciation of the Virgin Mary) and Palm Sunday.
Kathara Deftera (Καθαρά Δευτέρα) is a day when families and friends celebrate with delicious fasting foods, as well as the widespread custom of flying kites.