Clean Monday is celebrated on the sixth Monday before Palm Sunday every year in Greece and this year, it falls on February 27. Clean Monday (Greek: ‘Καθαρά Δευτέρα’) is a movable holiday and has no stable day of celebration because it depends on Lent. Precisely, Clean Monday is observed fifty days before Orthodox Easter, and it marks the beginning of the Great Lent period for Orthodox believers. Clean Monday is also called ‘Ash Monday,’ ‘Pure Monday,’ ‘Orthodox Shrove Monday,’ ‘Monday of Lent,’ or ‘Green Monday’ (particularly in Cyprus). Other than its religious significance, Clean Monday is also regarded as the first day of spring, and Greeks tend to celebrate it with ‘koulouma’ — which are outdoor activities and picnics. It concludes the month-long Greek Carnival and symbolizes the transition from feasting to fasting. Greek Orthodox celebrate Clean Monday by eating special Lent dishes (‘nistisima’ or ‘Sarakostiana’) based on legumes, vegetables, grains, and seafood.
History of Clean Monday
Clean Monday is a popular annual holiday observed in Greece and Cyprus. The name ‘Clean Monday’ (known locally as ‘Kathará Deftéra’) stems from the belief that Christians should approach the fasting season of Lent with clean hearts and pure intentions. Traditionally, Christians also see the Lenten season as a time to clean up their homes, readjust their lives, and commit themselves to a holier and more righteous lifestyle. Like every other day of Lent, Clean Monday is a day of total fasting. Christians are to abstain from eating from midnight to midday and are not allowed to eat meat at all. It stands in stark contrast to the festive mood and binging traditions of the three preceding weeks of the Greek Carnival — ‘Apokries.’
Clean Monday is an important bank holiday in Greece. Shops are often closed and many businesses do not open. Greeks have many customs and traditions associated with the national holiday. Since it is also considered to herald the arrival of spring, Greeks celebrate Clean Monday with fun, outdoor events, and picnics in the countryside — often called ‘koulouma.’ They also eat traditional foods like olives, octopuses, shellfish, and shrimp.
On Clean Monday, Greeks also bake ‘lagana,’ a special kind of unleavened bread — similar to ‘matzah’ eaten by Jewish people at the Passover. In addition to picnics, other outdoor activities on this national holiday include flying kites, dancing, music, etc. Everyone — young and old — visit the beautiful countryside and fly their colorful kites in the sunny sky. Different areas and regions throughout the country also have their special customs and local traditions associated with Clean Monday.
Clean Monday timeline
Greeks residing on the island of Crete begin the production of olives.
Saint Athanasius writes that the entire world observed the 40-day Lenten fast.
Dionysios Solomos pens ‘Hymn to Freedom,’ the Greek national anthem.
Talented artist Spyros Vassiliou paints “The Table of Clean Monday.”
Clean Monday FAQs
Why do they fly kites on Clean Monday?
The popular custom of flying kites on Clean Monday may have ties with ancient pagan rites. However, in the Christian Orthodox church, the kite represents the human soul, flying free and pure in the sky ready to meet the Creator.
What is Holy Week in Greece?
Holy Week marks the annual observance of Jesus’ last days on Earth. In Greece, believers commemorate the Holy Week by baking ‘tsoureki,’ the Greek Easter bread, and dyeing the traditional Easter eggs red on Thursday. On Good Friday, you’ll hear the church bells ring all day to commemorate the funeral of Christ.
What do you eat on Clean Monday?
On Clean Monday, Greeks eat various traditional meals, such as ‘lagana’ — a Clean Monday special, seafood, seashells, fish roe salad, vegetables, pulses, and halva.
Clean Monday Activities
Take a trip to Greece
Clean Monday is an important national holiday in Greece, and it comes with a series of fun traditions and customs. You’ll surely have a great time enjoying the beautiful day around the country’s beaches and countryside.
Share traditional dishes
Celebrate Clean Monday with traditional, mouthwatering meals, such as ‘fasolada,’ ‘taramas,’ ‘lagana,’ halva, cuttlefish, and spinach casserole. Many of these dishes are loved by everyone — including vegetarians and vegans.
Fly your kites
Clean Monday is also associated with flying kites and traditional dances. You can make your colorful kites from scratch, or simply buy a ready-made one from the stores or street vendors. Watch out for the winds, though!
5 Facts About Greece That Will Blow Your Mind
Greece has about 6,000 islands
Greece is made up of about 6,000 beautiful islands and islets, with only around 227 of them being inhabited.
Home to 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Greece is home to 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including popular sites like the Temple of Apollo, the Acropolis of Athens, Mount Athos, Meteora, the Medieval City of Rhodes, and the Old Town of Corfu.
It’s sunny out there
Recording about 250 sunny days and up to 3,000 hours of sunshine each year, Greece is one of the sunniest places in the world.
Officially, it’s not “Greece”
Greece’s official name is the ‘Hellenic Republic’ or ‘Hellas,’ and Greeks are known as ‘Hellenes.’
The cradle of democracy
The Athenian Democracy of ancient Greece which permitted citizens to vote directly on legislation and executive bills dates back to the fifth century B.C.
Why We Love Clean Monday
A time to detox
Clean Monday comes just after ‘Apokries,’ the great Greek carnival during which people binge on food and drinks. It’s a time to clean and purify the body, mind, and soul and prepare Christians for Lent.
Spring is the season of growth, beauty, and greenery. Clean Monday allows us to transition to the beautiful season of spring.
It’s a day for family hangouts
Clean Monday is the perfect excuse for a long weekend getaway with family and friends. It’s filled with fun traditions like kite flying, family picnics, and local dances.
Clean Monday dates