For Greek Orthodox, 19 February 2018 is Clean Monday (Kathari Theftera) and thus is the first day of Great Lent; its start marks exactly seven weeks before Greek Easter.
The “Clean” signifies two meanings: the cleansing of the body and of the spirit.
Clean Monday is a day of excitement in Greece, with many people spending the day outside – yep, it’s a Greek Holiday.
During this time, many traditional customs are evoked with many ares of Greece celebrate it in different ways. One of the most popular is, kite flying.
A tradition among small children, and something that I did when I was little, is to make a Lady lent doll (Κυρά Σαρακοστή – Kee-rah sah-rah-kos-tee). There are two common ways: as a paper doll or a cookie.
Essentially, it’s a doll with seven legs (the number of weeks during lent) and each week you remove a leg. You do this until Easter. Lastly, the doll is depicted with no mouth (to represent fasting) wearing a cross, and her arms are folded in prayer (to remind us to pray). To see a Lent doll Template so you can make your own, click here
The Duration of Great Lent
There is something significant each week during Great Lent. Below are the days most important that have a religious significance:
- Sunday of Orthodoxy
- Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas
- Sunday of the Holy Cross
- Sunday of St. John Climacus
- Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt
- Palm Sunday – Holy Saturday
- Easter Sunday
How Greeks Fast During Lent
In Greece, lent is a time to fast like elsewhere around the world. What Greece considers fasting is basically refraining from all animal products. This means no: meats, chicken (poultry), birds, etc., However, it doesn’t stop there.
During this fast, anything derived from the animals is also not aloud to be eaten as well. So this means no: eggs, cheese, milk, etc.,)
In addition to refraining from animals, olive oil and wine are also put on the do not touch list.
*Note about the olive oil–a lot of people still use it during lent. For those who don’t, vegetable oil is a common substitute.
Break From Fasting
This may be a surprise to some people, but the Greeks actually have two alterations during their lent. On March 25th, which is Greek Independence Day, and Palm Sunday. During these two days, the fasting restrictions are altered and fish (most choose cod) is allowed to be eaten.
Clean Monday Traditional Bread
On Clean Monday, Greeks east a bread known as lagana. It’s very easy to make and our recipe can be found by clicking: Lagana Bread | Clean Monday Traditional Bread