When the carnival festive season is over, the period of fasting until Easter begins. Take the opportunity to enjoy the first day of spring in the nicest way possible and, weather permitting, go out for a picnic and enjoy some outdoor activities like flying a kite. Indulge your palate with delicious Lenten dishes like lagana (a special unleavened bread eaten only on this day), taramosalata (a fish roe spread), dolmadakia (vine leaves stuffed with rice), seafood salads, shellfish, or a special semolina pudding known as “halvas”.
Clean Monday is a day of joy and excitement in Greece and one of the most anticipated days of the year! On this day old traditional customs are brought to life again. Take a look at the following events and make the choice that most takes your fancy:
Carnival is a fun time to be in Mesta on Chios Island! On Clean Monday the traditional Ayas celebration takes place. The roots of this event go back to the period when Ayas (the Ottoman tax collector) would come into the village to collect mastic as payment for taxes. Why not come and enjoy this fun event, where a popular court of justice makes crazy accusations of “crimes” supposedly committed by the villagers. The villagers appear for a “real” trial before an older member of the village who, dressed as the Pasha, metes out the “harsh” punishments!
On the island of Poros, the custom of “xartisma” takes place, which in fact involves cleaning the greasy cooking pots in which the festive dishes have been cooked!
In Alexandroupolis, a man disguised as a “beis” (a Turkish chieftain) wanders around the city warding off evil spirits!
In the village of Episkepsis on Corfu, a unique custom called “the dance of the priests” takes place on Tyrofagos (Cheese-eating) Sunday. The village priest leads the dance and the other men follow in order according to their age and their rank in the village.
On Clean Monday (or Ash Monday) on Karpathos Island the “Popular Court punishing Immoral Deeds” event takes place. The role of judge is bestowed upon the most venerable of the island's inhabitants. Obscene gestures are exchanged between villagers, the “police” intervene and the accused are led before the Judges in what is a very amusing spectacle!
It’s not a very clean Monday for the young people of Galaxidi, on the northern coast of the Corinth Gulf, who revel in the custom of pelting one another with colored flour and dancing around a fire (which the more daring even jump over!).
The old Asia Minor custom of Gaitanaki takes place in the central square of many towns during this period! People dance in a circle holding multicolour ribbons tied to the top of a long pole in the middle of the circle. As they dance the ribbons are wrapped and unwrapped round the stick in an impressive colourful spectacle!
In Methoni, on the first Monday of Lent the Wedding of Koutroulis' takes place. This tradition dates back to an incident in the 13th century, when the knight Ioannis Koutroulis lived in Methoni. He was married to Dona Agathi but fell in love with the beautiful Arsana, to whom he was finally married 17 years after first trying to persuade his wife to give him a divorce! The wedding celebrations lasted for many days and from that time on all such grand and exuberant celebrations came to be described as being “like Koutroulis' wedding”!
Enjoy a Clean Monday ritual in Nedousa, in the southern Peloponnese, which has its roots in antiquity according to descriptions by the poet Hesiodos! It is a kind of “popular theatre” consisting of a series of acts “performed” by a group of people dressed up as goats with bells around their waists to ward off evil spirits and secure good luck and prosperity for the village. Join in an interactive spectacle in which you mingle with the locals, drink and dance!
The custom of “Gligorakis of straw” comes to life every Clean Monday in Vonitsa, Aetoloakarnania. A fisherman made of straw is tied on a donkey, goes around the village and is then put on a boat which is finally set on fire!
Experience the revival of the Vlach Wedding in Thiva, an old custom according to which friends and relatives shave the groom and adorn the bride, whose role is performed by a man. The whole wedding procession starts from the couple going to the central square accompanied by “relatives”, all dressed up in traditional costumes, and traditional music. Then a proper wedding ceremony with a “priest” and a “best man” is held and finally the event comes to a close with the wedding celebrations, live traditional music, singing, food and plenty of wine!
On Clean Monday the tradition of “daubing” takes place in Polisytos village in Xanthi. On the eve of Clean Monday a traditional bean soup is cooked. The next day the villagers await visitors at the entrance of the village and daub them with ashes taken from the fire that the food was cooked on. Finally, the villagers cover themselves with animal skins, put on bells and walk around the village making as much noise as they can in order to exorcise bad luck!