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Clean Monday
Η Καθαρή Δευτέρα

   The first day of the Great 40 day fasting period for the Greek Orthodox Christians is Clean Monday. Also known as "ta koulouma" (τα Κούλουμα), it has the same meaning as Ash Wednesday for the Catholics. The name "Clean" came about because the house wives, in the past years were symbolically cleaning their pots from the grease, getting ready for the Sarakosti (Σαρακοστή). The customs are different in various parts of Greece. All over Greece though, the fasting begins.
   Taramas (Ταραμάς), fresh greens, halvas (χαλβάς), squid and of course the traditional Lagana (Λαγάνα), is the food of the day. The families are going out to the farms to celebrate the "Koulouma". They eat and drink laying down on the fresh spring grass. 
   Clean Monday is also a lot of fun for the children. After all, they are allowed to fly their kites all day. 
   In some places still remembering the Apokries, they sing, and are playing jokes on each other.

   As we said every part of Greece has different customs. What you've read is the the general behavior for this day.
   One noticeable custom is taking place in Thebes (Θήβα). It's the "Βλάχικος Γάμος" (Vlahikos Gamos). It is a funny representation of a wedding. The bride has copper bells around her neck and together with the groom they go through the streets of the city riding on donkeys.
   Suddenly though, somebody will drop down dead and everybody starts mourning and lighting candles around him. As suddenly as he fell dead, he rises and again the fun continues.

   It seems that the first day of the Great Fasting, is also a day of great fun for the Greeks. The fasting has started and everybody looks forward to Easter.

Explanations of Words

  • τα Κούλουμα (KOU-louma) = another name for Clean Monday.
  • η Σαρακοστή (sarako-STI) = 40 day Lent.
  • ο Ταραμάς (tara-MAS) = fish eggs made in a spread.
  • ο χαλβάς (hal-VAS) = a sweet treat with usually nuts in the middle.
  • η λαγάνα (la-GA-na) = its a flat, oval shaped bread.

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