Clean Monday is just around the corner! Did you know this day is celebrated throughout Greece, combining gastronomy customs and outdoor fun? Typically falling on the first Monday after Carnival Sunday, Clean Monday essentially commences the official fasting season. In the month of February, the Greek Orthodox faith gradually restricts the dinner table options, week after week, preparing the faithfuls for a system cleanse until the greatest feast of all: Easter Sunday.
Clean Monday fun - Kite flying:
Clean Monday is celebrated outdoors, taking advantage of the Greek sunshine; even though it is still February, chances are that the weather will be dry and sunny enough for the day to be enjoyed to the fullest! And looking up towards the clear, blue sky you will see it full of kites, soaring. Some fly high and proud, some low and shy, others can’t make it airborne and others have broken free from their humans, and dance an independent dance of freedom as they glide wherever the wind blows. It is a long standing tradition on Clean Monday to fly a paper kite, whereas nowadays plastic is favoured over paper for durability reasons.
There are a few elements to pay attention to when attempting to fly a kite: make sure all the strings are detangled, and keep a good tight distance between your grip and the kite - don’t let it become loose and void in the wind, you should make an effort to feel the friction or else it will dive down to the ground, killing all the fun!
Clean Monday flavours - Koulouma:
And although Clean Monday is associated with less culinary choices, there are still plenty of delicious, nutritional and favorite dishes that the Greeks tuck into this time of year. Seafood is honorary on Clean Monday, and what a joy that is since our seas are brimming with all sorts of shrimps, kalamari, octapi, crayfish, squid that are caught fresh, and prepared the traditional way we know and love.
The Greeks have a special bread for this occasion: the lagana. A sesame crusted flat type of white bread, that is strictly prepared and consumed on Clean Monday. Any other time of the year, you won’t be able to taste this special bread. And if you know something about Greek gastronomy, you know that we also love our spreads and dips. Taramosalata is the traditional dip that accompanies the Clean Monday feast, made from fish roe, although you cannot taste any fish when you try it. And as for dessert, the Macedonian halva is a dry type of sugary sweet, made from tahini and semolina, made without eggs or dairy aligning it with the tradition of fasting. It comes in many variations with almonds, honey, cocoa, vanilla so you’ll be able to find your favourite among them all.