"Clean Monday" with Dancing Kites / Video

"Kathara Deftera" / "Clean Monday", the first day of Lent in the Greek Orthodox Church

  Every year, seven weeks before the Easter Holiday and right after the Carnival Parade, the Cretans, like all Greeks, celebrate "Kathara Deftera", "Clean Monday" (also known as Shrove Monday/ Green Monday/ Ash Monday/ Pure Monday). This is a day of great spiritual significance and an important tradition, which marks the beginning of the Great Lent. Kathara Deftera is among Greek national holidays, and like the other religious feasts that precede the Christian-Orthodox Easter, the date is variable, usually falling in March.

 That's how the three weeks of carnival festivities (Apokries) characterized by entertainment and food excesses come to an end, inviting Christians to give up "sinful" habits. It is the beginning of the 48-day Lent, the longest and most severe in terms of food, known to the Greeks as "Sarakosti" that ends on Resurrection Sunday.

 According to church ordinances, this period of fasting is reminiscent of Christ's sufferings on the cross. Thus, during this period, weddings and baptisms are not held, and parties are considered inappropriate. Lent is also associated with a period of the cleansing of the mind and body. Faithful people abstain from certain foods, such as meat, eggs, fish, and dairy. Also, they adopt a spiritual attitude to purify their souls through prayers and good deeds.

 The foods that the Greeks eat during the Sarakosti period mainly include vegetarian dishes, as well as shellfish. A widespread custom of Kathara Deftera is the consumption of the unleavened bread known as "Lagana" which is baked only on this day. It is accompanied by "taramosalata" (roe salad), seafood, legumes, olives, salads, pickles, dolmades (traditional stuffed cabbage/vine leaf rolls), oil-free fried chickpea meatballs, or a bean soup ”Gigantes”. Halva, the irresistible sweet combination of sesame, tahini, and honey, is consumed as a dessert.

 Because is a national holiday, for Kathara Deftera, in all towns and villages, local municipalities organize special events and activities in which locals of all ages enjoy programs of traditional folk music, dance, and delicious vegetarian food. It is a day for family, relatives, and friends, so if the weather is nice, most Greeks spend it outside the house, doing nature trips or picnics.

 Kathara Deftera is considered to mark the beginning of spring. In the cheerful atmosphere, the raising of kites is also part of the tradition, symbolizing the attempt of the soul to reach the Divine. This is a beautiful custom that fills landscapes with joy and the sky with a symphony of bright colors. The dance of kites in the wind, cleverly handled by children and parents who compete to keep them in the air longer and higher, is a real delight for the eyes of watchers. Here you have an artistic video with the kites from Heraklion!

 With its cheerful spirit and appetizing culinary specialties, Kathara Deftera offers the perfect reason for a nature getaway together with family and friends, while keeping alive the Greek cultural and religious traditions inherited through countless generations.

 Kali Sarakosti! / Have a blessed Lent!

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