Clean Monday

You may think that fasting in Greece means starving to death. Well my friends, let me enlighten you. In Greece we manage to make a banquet of everything, including a meal that has no meat, dairy, olive oil and all those other simple pleasures of life. Look at it this way – after we’ve stuffed ourselves for weeks, and grilled meat to our heart’s content on Tsiknopempti, a little bit of Fasting is Good For The Soul. And that’s why we love our Clean Monday – “Kathara Deftera” as we say in Greece. Plus we get to run in the fields and fly kites, as is the custom, and work off a few calories.

Kathara Deftera (Clean Monday)

Kathara Deftera is a public holiday in Greece. Carnival ends the day before, and 50 days (or 7 weeks) of fasting begin that take us up to Greek Easter. Fasting on Clean Monday, however, is not as strict as the remaining days leading up to Easter. Although meat is not eaten, many Greeks enjoy vertebrae fish.
On the menu is Taramosalata (a dip made from fish roe), Gigantes Plaki (giant oven baked Greek beans with fresh tomatoes), Fava Dip (pureed chickpeas), Dolmades (rice mix wrapped in vine leaves), seafood such as octopus and kalamari, Lagana flat bread and Horta (boiled greens). Plus loads of salads minus the Feta cheese and olive oil. A favourite sweet is Halvas which is made with semolina and doused in a hot sweet syrup. Another version is Greek Macedonian Halvas, which is harder and made of sweet tahini, sugar and glucose. Halvas is eaten right through to Easter.

Fasting from Lent until Greek Easter

As a period of purification of the body and spirit, there are strict rules about fasting in the Greek Orthodox Religion. Food deriving from anything with red blood i.e. meat and fish, or products coming from red blooded animals (milk, cheese, yoghurt, eggs, etc.) are prohibited. Olive oil is also not allowed. Since Greek Easter is based on the Julian calendar and Easter Sunday must be on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the Spring Equinox, all these dates are movable each year.
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