Source: Greek City Times
In the Greek Orthodox Church, Kathara Deftera (Clean Monday) is the first day of Great Lent.
Today also marks the end of the preceding Carnival celebrations, inviting everyone to abandon the 'sinful' attitudes associated with Carnival festivities and non-fasting foods, which were largely consumed during the last three weeks of the Carnival.
It is a national holiday today in Greece and Cyprus, with special events and activities in all towns and villages featuring plenty of music, dancing, and delicious vegetarian food to mark the beginning of this special Greek Orthodox period of fasting and contemplation.
Saracosti, which is the great period of Lent before the Orthodox Easter takes its name from Tessaracoste, which comes from the word forty, which is the forty-day period until Palm Sunday and then one more week until Easter day makes a total of 49 days of "fasting". During this time, we fast in order to "cleanse" our bodies and spirits in preparation for the Resurrection.
During Saracosti, no meat or dairy products are consumed. Lenten foods typically include olives, taramasalata, Halva, vegetables, legumes, and seafood such as calamari, octopus, shrimp, oysters, cuttlefish, mussels, lobsters, and so on. Fish is not permitted except on two occasions: March 25th (Annunciation of the Virgin Mary) and Palm Sunday.
Each part of Greece has its own traditions.
Clean Monday is a day where families and friends celebrate with outdoor excursions, delicious fasting foods, as well as the widespread custom of flying kites.
For most children, this is the essential activity of the day. Kids always compete on whose kite will fly higher.
Origins of the kite-flying tradition
There are several theories on why we fly a kite onKathara Deftera. Following the Dionysian spree of Apokries, flying signifies the ascension and purification of the soul. From a Christian point of view, it is symbolic of the human spirit flying into the skies and getting closer to God. This tradition probably originated in China, where it is still popular today. People in Asian countries flew kites of square or cylindrical shapes during religious ceremonies and rituals to keep demons away. They believed that the higher the kite flew, the luckier they would be. Kites may have also existed in Ancient Greece. It appears that a man called Archytas designed something that resembled a kite. Sadly, his original works have not survived.