Clean Monday – Everything About the Traditional Greek Holiday

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The name of this holiday can be really confusing and give you a wrong impression. For example, you may think that Greeks clean up their residences or get a multiple-step shower on this special celebration. In reality, it has nothing to do with any of these!
If you happen to be in Greece right after the Carnival season, make sure to note the 7th week before the Greek Orthodox Easter Sunday, as this is when Clean Monday is always placed every year; this is a usual moveable feast that will introduce you to the Greek traditions and customs and make you feel like a local!

History of Clean Monday


Clean Monday – or Kathara Deftera in Greek – is a feast related to the beginning of the Great Lent according to the Greek Orthodox Church. It is celebrated right after the end of the Carnival, and as its name suggests, it signifies the transition from feast to fasting. On Clean Monday, people are invited to let go of their teasing behavior and gluttony, and dietary restrictions are imposed during the period of the Great Lent. All kinds of meat and its by-products are not consumed until Easter Monday, and some people even deprive themselves of olive oil. However, fish and seafood are allowed because they do not have blood.
Easter is the most significant holiday of the Orthodox Church, as it symbolizes the death of the old self and the promise of a new and pure one; therefore, the body must be prepared and detoxed, while it is a time for prayer and introspection.

Clean Monday Habits

Clean Monday, although a religious holiday, remains a feast! There is a variety of symbolic customs followed on that day, many of them having their routes in the pagan past. On Clean Monday, the weather is usually sunny and warm, so many families and friends take over the hills and parks for picnics! Taverns and cafeterias are packed with people, and everyone enjoys the warmer days approaching.
The habit intertwined with Clean Monday is flying a kite up high, a nostalgic custom beloved by all Greeks. The view of the bright blue sky filled with colorful kites of all shapes is simply wonderful! If you want to partake in the kite flying, note that there are many spots where you can purchase one, even on the same day.

Food on Clean Monday

If you think that Greeks don’t eat much or well on this day,  you are dead wrong! The coming of the Lent is celebrated with a variety of traditional, mouthwatering meatless dishes, many of which are particularly loved by vegetarians and vegans! Some of the most popular ones include fasolada (a delicious black bean soup with tomato sauce), cuttlefish and spinach casserole, taramas (a delicious dip made of mashed potatoes and fish eggs that is way tastier than it sounds), lagana (a flatbread to dip into everything) as well as halva, the tahini-based dessert, so rich in fat, sugar, and taste that it would be difficult to crave a brownie afterward.
Restaurants also set up a special menu for the day, typically including many seafood-based dishes such as fried squid, seafood spaghetti, and grilled fish. Well, it doesn’t sound much like starving, does it?

Where to spend your Clean Monday in Greece

Port of Hydra

Clean Monday is a national holiday in Greece, thus the perfect excuse for a long weekend getaway!
Here are some suggestions on where to go if you are visiting or staying in Athens during that time:

  • The Filopappos Hill close to the Acropolis offers a wide green area and has become the perfect place to spend Clean Monday enjoying a picnic with a view!
  • Visit the south suburbs of Attica and eat fresh fish at a seaside restaurant. Athens has a beautiful coastline, which is ideal for long walks.
  • Make a day trip to one of the Saronic Islands, the islands with the quaint architecture and lovely beaches that lie the closest to Athens. A day tour to Hydra and Aegina is strongly recommended!

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