Clean Monday is a moving holiday, depending on when Easter falls that year. Specifically, it’s the Monday of the 7th week or 48 days before Orthodox Easter. It also marks the end of the Carnival period in Greece. Additionally, many people go to confession this week and clean out their homes, more popularly known as “spring cleaning”.
Why is it called Clean Monday?
Starting on Clean Monday, we are called upon to leave behind all our “bad” habits – especially dietary ones – saying no to foods with meat in them (among others), thereby purifying our souls and bodies. Clean Monday in some areas of Greece is also known as Κούλουμα [Kοόloόma].
What to eat on Clean Monday
First and foremost, in the morning, Greeks will go to their favourite bakery and buy a long flat loaf of bread called lagana λαγάνα [layána]. It’s a kind of unleavened bread made without yeast. Traditionally, Greeks will have on hand the sweet sesame treat halva χαλβά [halvá], tarama, olives, fasolada φασολάδα [fasolátha] (Greece’s national food!) and many vegetables and pickles goodies.
Fish tavernas all over Greece are always full on this day as most people will opt to go out for seafood, ordering delicious fried squid, octopus, mussels and oysters.
What to do on Clean Monday
After the feast at lunch, many people go out and fly a kite. This is meant to symbolize the spiritual “flying” of the human spirit. Holy Monday is the first day of Lent where Christians begin their physical and spiritual fasting. Fasting from meat is meant to cleanse the body and soul and by flying a kite, a person is meant to come even closer to God.