"Clean Monday" with Dancing Kites / Video

"Kathara Deftera" / "Clean Monday", the first day of Lent 

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

 It marks the end of the three-week carnival celebrations (Apokries), marked by excesses of pleasure and food, and calls on Christians to refrain from "sinful" habits. It is the beginning of the 48-day period of Lent, the longest and strictest in terms of food, known among Greeks as "Sarakosti" and ending on Resurrection Sunday.

This Lenten period commemorates the sufferings of Christ on the Cross. Therefore, no weddings or baptisms are held during this time, and parties are considered inappropriate. Lent is also associated with a time of purification of the mind and body. Believers abstain from certain foods such as meat, eggs, fish and dairy products. They also adopt a spiritual attitude to purify their souls through prayers and good deeds.

The foods that Greeks eat during the Sarakosti period include mainly vegetarian dishes and shellfish. A widespread custom on Kathara Deftera is the consumption of 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), fat-free fried chickpea meatballs or a bean soup called "gigantes". Halva, the irresistible sweet combination of sesame seeds, tahini and honey, is a popular dessert.

 For Kathara Deftera, local municipalities organize special events in all towns and villages where locals of all ages can enjoy traditional folk music, dance, and delicious vegetarian food. The day belongs to family, friends, and relatives, so if the weather is nice, most Greeks spend it outside, doing nature trips or picnics.

 Spring is considered to begin with Kathara Deftera. Symbolizing the soul's attempt to reach the Divine, kites are also raised in the cheerful atmosphere. A symphony of bright colors fills the sky and landscapes with this beautiful custom. Children and parents compete to keep kites up in the air for longer and higher, making their dance in the wind a real delight for the eyes. 

 While keeping alive the Greek cultural and religious traditions inherited from generations past with its cheerful spirit and appetizing culinary specialties, Kathara Deftera offers the perfect reason for a nature getaway with family and friends.

 The kites from Heraklion are featured in this artistic video!

 Kali Sarakosti! / Have a blessed Lent!

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