Clean Monday, also known as Ash Monday, marks the beginning of the 40-day Easter Fast as well as the end of the Carnival. The fast lasts 40 days, just like the number of days that Jesus fasted in the desert. Clean Monday is celebrated 48 days before the Sunday of Jesus’ resurrection, the Orthodox Easter.
Traditions of Clean Monday Around Greece
There are a number of traditions held around Greece regarding Clean Monday…..
- In Theva, they have the ancient tradition where they shave the groom and adorn the bride, who is in fact a man.
- In Mesta and Olympus of Chios island, the “Agas” tradition — the roots trace back to the Turkish rule — features a man as a strict “judge,” who condemns the audience with humor and teasing.
- In Alexandroupoli, a resident dresses up as a Bey and walks around the city, saying good wishes to everyone.
- In Karpathos, a “Popular Court of Immoral Deeds” is reenacted where the audience exchanges improper gestures, and are led in front of the “court” in order to be served by justice.
- In Galaxidi, the tradition is flour-smearing; carnavalists dance and throw flour.
- In Methony, the marriage of Koutroulis — a real wedding that had occurred in the 14th century — is re-enacted with humor.
- In Vonitsa, the tradition of “Achyrenios Gligorakis” is to tie a straw-made fisherman on a donkey, that walks around the village and finally ends up in flames on a boat in the open sea.
Recipes for the Ash Monday Table
In several regions in Greece, on Ash Monday, people clean out their fridges, from whatever is left from the non-fasting foods of the carnival. The table of Ash Monday includes fasting dishes like chalva, tarama, olives, pickles, sea food and bean soup. The food is accompanied by lagana, which is a type of flat, crispy bread without sourdough.
Recipe for Taramosalata:
1 kilo of potatoes
250 grams of red or white tarama
juice from 2 lemons
300 grams of olive oil
Clean and peel the potatoes, chop them into pieces and boil them. After they’ve boiled, puree them in a mixer. Add the tarama. Gradually add to the mix, the lemon juice and olive oil. Wish for as long as you want, depending on how “fluffy” you want the mix.
How to Make Your Own Kite:
A very well-known custom of Ash Monday and especially a loved one by the children, is kite flying.
Even though today, most people buy the kites at a shop. In the olden days the kites were hand-made with wood, newspapers, glue and string.
Here is a video if you feel up to the challenge of making your own kite!: