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Kite Tales: the Stories Behind Clean Monday Traditions in Crete

Clean Monday (Katharά Deftéra, Kαθαρά Δευτέρα in Greek) is not the same day every year; it corresponds with the start of Great Lent (7 weeks before Orthodox Easter) and the end of Greek Carnival.

 The Greek word katharòs means purity and cleanliness.
It is a significant day that symbolises spiritual and physical purification in advance of Easter.

What exactly does “Clean Monday” mean?

Clean Monday follows the carnival’s heavy diet; beginning on this day, Orthodox Christians prepare for Easter by cleansing their bodies and spirits.

The Old Tradition of Kite Flying.

The Clean Monday families and friends gather in parks, beaches, and hillsides to take part in the ancient ritual of kite flying. Colourful kites fill the air, bringing joy and mirth to the island of Crete and the entire country.

Traditionally, the family patriarch made the kites by hand. This ensured that the kite-making activity (which had previously used natural materials) would continue in the future. Nowadays, you see people selling kites on the streets, and just a few individuals create kites from wood. In any case, it’s a wonderful family tradition that paints the sky with vibrant colours.

Kites symbolise release and rebirth.

Flying kites are historically intertwined with Greek culture. Kites symbolise not only freedom and joy, but also rebirth and optimism. The Christian Orthodox religion considers the kite as a symbol of the holy spirit, which rises free and pure to meet God in the sky. In this way, the faithful prepare for Orthodox Easter and Jesus’ Resurrection.

Children and families run along the beaches as breezes carry kites into the sky, reaffirming the promise of a new beginning and a brighter future.

Religious Clean Monday celebrations.

Clean Monday isn’t only about kite flying. Many people attend Orthodox Church services. 
It is a day of spiritual purification as the Greek people prepare for Lent’s fasting period.

 

Traditional greek bread (lagana),Clean Monday food

Clean Monday features traditional Greek meals.

Lagana

Lagana is a delicious bread that the Greeks exclusively prepare on Clean Monday.
Lagana is unique in that it is flat and has no yeast.

This bread has an Old Testament background and refers to the help that God gave to the Jewish people in guiding them from Egypt to the promised land. Since then, Israelis have prepared unleavened bread, known as Lagana, for the Passover holiday, a tradition passed down from early Christian believers.

In Greece, records of a thin bread known as “laganos,” detailed in the works of the great comic playwright Aristophanes, date back to ancient times, showing that the custom is also linked to the country’s history.

Taramas

During Lent, many people eat taramas or taramasalata. It’s a classic Greek fish roe dip. The ingredients of this dish include fish roe, breadcrumbs, potatoes, olive oil, lemons, and onions. Taramasalata is ideal for spreading on “lagana”.

Seafood

There is no meat on the menu, so fish of all varieties takes centre stage. Daytime specialties include grilled octopus, stuffed squid, oysters, and mussels.

Olive oil

Olive oil is a key product of the Cretan area. Olive oil not only enhances the flavour of any food, but it also works well as an appetiser with lagana bread and is a vital element of the Clean Monday meal.

Halvà

Halva is a sweet delicacy that every Cretan family enjoys during Lent. The Halva recipe is deeply rooted in Middle Eastern culinary traditions. The Clean Monday Halva contains sesame tahini.

An unforgettable experience in Crete.

Clean Monday in Crete is a unique celebration that combines traditional customs, religion, and symbolism.

This day, which includes kite flying and religious traditions, is a unique opportunity to learn about Orthodox Greece’s rich culture and spirituality.

Travellers who want to immerse themselves in authentic Greek culture should not miss out on this event. Participate in the festivities by flying a colourful kite and eating delicious traditional foods produced just for the occasion.  It’s time to promote joy and happiness throughout the community while creating great memories.

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Sources:

The article sources are my experiences and my life in Crete, the information I got from the locals and some interesting contents I found on the following websites: greekreporter.com, blog.greeka.com, definitelygreece.com, greece-is.com, allincrete.com, studyingreece.edu.gr
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