Wednesday 1 March 2017

Celebrating Clean Monday, the beginning of Lent

Clean Monday, Pure Monday, Lent Monday, or Ash Monday, is of Christian origins, meaning spiritual and physical purification. For most Greeks, celebrating Clean Monday means going to the hillside or by the sea to fly kites and enjoy a fasting picnic - these celebrations are also called Koulouma, a word that comes from the Latin cuuiulus, which means both abundance and end. Thus the koulouma stand for the culmination of the carnival period and also the beginning of the season of Lent.

This first day of the Eastern Orthodox Christian Lent requires the consumption of shellfish, taramosalata, a special kind of flat bread called lagana, halva, gigandes and other beans.

We celebrated Clean Monday in a very traditional way this year and it was great fun.

First stop in the morning was our local bakery. The huge lagana outside the shop wishes everyone a 'Good Lent'.

The only bread being sold on Monday was lagana. Mrs Voula and her team were very busy, but did find time to stop for this photograph. We love this bakery. The bread, pies, pastries and biscuits are of the highest quality, everyone is very friendly, and Mrs Voula always gives us a treat when we go. Very generous.

After we deposited our purchases of laganes, biscuits and apple pies home, we walked to Pani, the only hill in our area and one of the few places that is not built-up. Lots of kite flyers were already there, even though by the time we left an hour later, their numbers had doubled.

The hill affords 360-degree views - in this photograph, Lycabettus hill in the distance.

Our home is in this direction, very near the sea

and further along, we could see Ellinikon, the vast area of the old airport. The Greek government promised that this land would become a much-needed park in this city that desperately lacks parks, but in the end they rescinded on their promise and are in the process of selling the land to developers - unfortunately, money always wins.

We stopped to drool over this modernist house

and then turned round to admire to view of the Hymettus mountains, covered in cloud

Below us was the area where the koulouma festivities were taking place: a band, a play area and a stall offering complimentary food.

We continued our climb

and reached the summit.

From this point we could see the Acropolis in the distance

but just had to turn around to get a view of the sea again

as is the case in these situations, it was mostly the adults you were flying the kites even though it's supposedly an activity for the kids

Piraeus on the right

The descent was much easier

a good view of the kites from here.

We reached the children's play area

the band who were playing Greek popular music

the stalls where complimentary drinks, lagana and halva were given out

face painting

We listened to the music for a while

had a last look at the hill and all the kites, and walked back home where a veritable feast with family and friends was awaiting us:

aubergine salad, Greek salad, beans, peppers, gherkins, olives harvested and processed by the chef himself, taramosalata

prawn giouvetsi

the chef preparing the barbecue

of squid, octopus and giant shrimp.

Halva, apple pies and Greek pastries for afters and what a wonderful day it was.

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