Clean Monday, ‘Kathari Deftera’, or Green Monday is the first Monday in Orthodox Lent. (Little bit about Lent…Lent reflects the 40 days and nights that Jesus spent in the desert being taunted by the devil. Greek Orthodox counts the Sundays within the 40 days whilst Christianity doesn’t.) It’s a moveable date (not day, hence Monday in the title) and always falls on the 6th Monday before Palm Sunday. The 7th Monday falls during the ‘Holy Week’ which ends in Easter Sunday. This year, Clean Monday is today, March 7th, meaning Orthodox Easter Sunday is April 24th. Don’t forget that Greek and Russian Orthodox Easter is different from Christian Easter due to different calendars.
Easter is the most important Holiday in the Orthodox Calendar so Clean Monday is pretty important too! It refers to the start of cleaning yourself of sins, starting Lent with a clean heart and cleaning yourself of non-fasting food before Easter. You are meant to rid yourself of the fun and frivolity of the just happened carnival and get ready to start anew with the resurrection of Jesus. This means no meat, no fish (unless it is a major feast day), eggs or dairy. (Hence Tsikno Pemti or Meat Thursday where A LOT of Souvla is eaten…the entire Island is covered in Souvla smoke). I remember my grandfather sticking to a lot of grains, potatoes, beans and ‘food of the land’ during Lent (we are Ukrainian Catholic which is very similar to Greek and Russian Orthodox). In Cyprus, a special bread is only baked on this day throughout the year, called Lagana and it is custom to spend time outdoors (thankfully it’s not raining today!) as Clean Monday also marks the first day of Spring (let’s hope the weather gets this memo!). The custom of flying kites is really popular and is known as ‘trying to reach the divine’. As I write this there are many children and adults around my house trying to catch a gust of wind to get their kites high into the sky. It’s so nice to watch!
Families will go down to the beach, go into the Akamas, head to the Argaka or Smidgies (Neo Chorio) camp sites to eat picnics (full of olives, shellfish, fruits, vegetables, Lagana bread and dips) and spend time together whilst enjoying the outdoors.
How are you going to celebrate your Clean Monday?