Clean Monday, the first day of the Greek Orthodox Great Lent, is a day of celebration. In villages around Greece, tables are set and stocked with the traditional foods of the day to welcome visiting friends and family. Greeks gather - as families, friends, or entire communities - to enjoy a day of picnics at the beach or the countryside with traditional foods, music, kite-flying and dancing.  Kite-flying is a traditional part of this day. Then they join for a feast enjoying the allowed foods and special Lenten dishes.

     The whole weekend preceding "Clean Monday" offers vigorous parties, parades, and traditional events due to the Carnival (see related post "Apokries-Carnival").

     While a holiday atmosphere still prevails, "Clean Monday" or "Kathari Theftera" marks the start of the Lenten period "Sarakosti" (40-day Lent before Easter). It is called "clean" because it starts a period during which our bodies and spirits are "cleansed" to prepare for accepting the Resurrection at Easter which is the most sacred of all observances in the Greek Orthodox faith.   

     Clean Monday is a public holiday in Greece and everything is closed. Children make the "Kyra Sarakosti," (Lady Lent), a paper doll with seven legs to represent the seven weeks of Lent. At the end of every week, a leg is cut off to show how many weeks remain until Easter.
     All the foods consumed on Clean Monday are all "pure" without the shedding of blood and since it is a time of fasting, it means abstaining from foods that contain animals with red blood (meats, poultry, game) and products from animals with red blood (milk, cheese, eggs, etc.), and fish and seafood with backbones. Olive oil and wine are also restricted. 

     Modern day Greeks do not abstain from all these food groups, unfortunately the vigorous rhythms of daily life are too demanding for that, even though many do succeed in doing it. Older people are the ones who do solemnly fast. It goes without saying, that children and sick people are excluded.

     Foods eaten during Lent are restricted, but that doesn't mean Lenten dishes are boring and bland, on the contrary!
Here's a small sample of Lenten dishes:

(rice filled grape leaves)

mussels with lemon juice

 Greek-Style Boiled Shrimp
Boiled shrimp with a delicious oil and lemon sauce
Taramasalata: Fish Roe Dip
Tarama (cod or carp roe) is sometimes called "the common man's caviar." Combined with olive oil and bread, it makes one of the tastiest and most famous of all Greek dips.
Maroulosalata: Cos (Romaine) Lettuce Salad
Fresh, crisp greens with green onions leeks (if desired) with a light vinegar and oil dressing.
Yigandes Plaki: Baked Bean Casserole
Yigandes are similar to giant dried Lima beans, and this oven-to-table casserole combines them with tomatoes, onions, herbs, and spices to create a fabulous dish.
Htapothi sti Skhara: Grilled Octopus
Octopus grilled over an open flame is a classic Greek meze (snack) to serve with ouzo and wine, and a favorite on Clean Monday.
Lagana: A flat bread traditionally served on this day

 fried calamari is a delicious dish as well

potato salad with parsley, dill, green onion, onion, capers, olive oil and red wine vinegar

and for dessert...
Halvas: Semolina Pudding
Halvas can be made in many different ways, and this version is made with honey, nuts, raisins, and the tastes of cinnamon and cloves, for a wonderful dessert.
Complete the table with Greek olives and fresh fruit.
And to drink? Ouzo, of course.

Καλη Σαρακοστη !!!
Have a good Lent !!!


Greece is universally considered ideal for summer vacations with its sandy beaches, crystal clear seas and wonderful sunny days BUT it can also be an exciting winter destination!
(Mt. Parnassos)

Who would have ever imagined that skiing or snowboarding or even snowmobiling in Greece is quite common activity during winter season!

(Mt. Parnassos)
As it is mainly a mountainous country (over 2.000 meters - 6.500 ft.) it has a number of ski resorts that attract thousands of skiers during winter. Greece has about 21 ski centers that have their base camps at altitudes of approximately 1500m. and their summits range between 2.200m. and 2.500m. The slopes range from very steep to flat slopes.

(3-5 Pigadia Ski Resort)
  You can enjoy winter sports, mountain climbing/hiking, rafting and combine them with visits at ancient historical sights nearby, traditional villages, local festivities and of course good food! And last but not least you won’t loose visual contact with the sea! Many of Greece’s ski centers are in less than an hour drive distance to the sea. This combination is unique the world over.
(lake Plastira)

You don't believe me? Take a look at these photos:

(3-5 Pigadia Ski Resort)
(Kaimaktsalan Ski Resort)
(Kalavrita Ski Resort)
(Mt. Parnassos)
(Vermio Ski Resort)



It is fascinating what one's creativity and imagination can do. Here's what a mother did at home to make some extra money! Some may disagree with the idea but still one cannot deny that the photos are fantastic!!!

The mother of this little girl is a computer scientist from Helsinki, Finland. While her daughter is sleeping, she creates a completely different world with any item she can find available! Both mother and daughter have become famous! It is truly the work of great  imagination and creativity!            



    Today is Thursday, in Greece it's Tseknopempte, Smoked Thursday or as they call it elsewhere Fat Thursday -- (Germany: Fetter Donnerstag, Italy: Giovedì Grasso, Poland: Tłusty czwartek, Spain: Jueves lardero. It is similar to, (but should not be confused with), the French festival of Mardi Gras ("Fat Tuesday" which is also celebrated in New Orleans, USA).
    Tseknopémptẽ is a feast associated with the celebration of Carnival (Apokries: see related post) when Greeks enjoy meat dinners at taverns, their homes or friends' homes just ten days before the beginning of the Great Lent (40day fasting) which begins on Clean Monday (will explain about Lent and Clean Monday in upcoming posts). Because Lent is a time of fasting, the next opportunity to feast will not be until Easter!

    Tseknopempte literally means Smoked Thursday and it refers to the smoke from grilling/barbecuing big quantities of meats and the custom demands that the meat is barbecued today!

    It is a holiday of joy (and preparation for the Great Lent) and of course it involves dancing and singing and wishing each other Good Health and Happy Easter!

                                                                    ΧΡΟΝΙΑ ΠΟΛΛΑ !!!



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