Apr 2, 2024

What is Clean Monday in Greece?

Greeks have many traditions alongside their Orthodox Easter. Amongst these Greek traditions is Kathara Deftera, also known as "Clean Monday," which marks the commencement of Lent for Orthodox Christians. On this day, Greeks engage in kite-flying activities, symbolizing the Resurrection, as well as enjoy outdoor picnics. Furthermore, this holiday serves as the unofficial onset of springtime festivities for the Greek population.

Kathara Deftera and the Beginning of Lent

Kathara Deftera holds significant importance as an annual celebration in Greece, marking the commencement of the 40-day period of Great Lent, known as "Sarakosti," in the Greek Orthodox Church.

This feast initiates on the first day of the 7th week before Greek Orthodox Easter Sunday. However, liturgically, Clean Monday — and consequently, the start of Lent — begins on the preceding Sunday evening with a special service where attendees mutually seek forgiveness by bowing before one another.

This tradition allows the faithful to embark on Great Lent with a clear conscience, having sought forgiveness and renewed Christian love. Sometimes referred to as "Ash Monday" in resemblance to Ash Wednesday in Western Christianity, Clean Monday signifies the transition from the preceding festive Carnival period, urging Orthodox Christians to abandon the sinful behaviors associated with Carnival celebrations, along with non-fasting foods predominantly consumed during the three-week Carnival.

Consequently, this feast, observed as a public holiday in Greece and Cyprus, is marked by outdoor activities, consumption of fasting foods such as shellfish, and the widespread custom of constructing and flying kites.

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