Grab your kite and join celebrations on Clean Monday (Kathara Deftera) in Greece. Greeks spend the day outdoors flying their handmade kites and gather around the table for the traditional Clean Monday meal or as they call it Koulouma.
Clean Monday, also known as Pure Monday, Ash Monday, Monday of Lent or Green Monday, is the first day of Great Lent throughout Eastern Christianity and is a moveable feast, falling on the 7th Monday before Pascha. This feast of spring is a public holiday in Greece.
The last Sunday of the carnival festive season signals the end of Carvival in Greece and the beginning of fasting until Easter Sunday. For Greeks it’s the perfect opportunity to celebrate spring, weather permitting. Most families choose to have picnics in nearby locations and enjoy some outdoor activities like flying a kite.
The traditional dishes for Koulouma include 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 Dishes and Recipes
Clean Monday in Greece involves good food and good company. This year due to COVID-19 restictions most families and close friends will stay indoors but that doesn’t mean that we can not enjoy a delicious meal. Here is how you can add Clean Monday dishes on your table.
- Lagana – a lightly unleavened flatbread made especially on Clean Monday. See the recipe here.
- Taramosalata – Tarama is the most famous of all Greek dips. See the recipe here.
- Octopus, Shrimp, Kalamari – seafood … what else? See the recipes here.
- Halva – eaten as a dessert, made with tahini, a sesame paste, and sugar, often combined with nuts or chocolate and baked in a square. See the recipe here.
- Wine or Tsipouro. Who needs a reason to drink?
Make your own Kite
Most older Greeks know how to make their own kite and love to teach younger generations this old tradition. This is how you can make your own kite at home.
The History of Kites
Many scholars believe that they were developed in China. Other evidence suggests that kites were used by cultures in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the South Pacific as fishing instruments made of natural materials like leaves and reeds. Anthropological evidence suggests that kites may have been independently developed in other areas, but these claims are not well documented.
In 450 BC, famous Chinese philosopher Mo-tse spent three years carefully crafting a wooden bird to fly on a tethered line. There is some debate on whether this reference is considered a kite.
The earliest written account of kite flying is in China in 200 BC, supporting China’s claim to the origin of the kite. The Chinese General Han Hsin of the Han Dynasty flew a kite over the walls of a city he was attacking to measure how far his army would have to tunnel to reach past the defenses.
By the 13th Century, kite flying had spread by traders from China to Korea and across Asia to India and the Middle East. Each area developed a distinctive style of kite and cultural purpose for flying them.