On Monday, 23rd February, the Greek people of Athens will be celebrating ‘Kathari Deftera’, aka Clean Monday, Orthodox Shrove Monday or Ash Monday. It is the first day of Orthodox Christian Great Lent that occurs at the beginning of the 7th week before Easter Sunday. The public holiday will be a day of great celebrations, delicious food and family traditions.
Greek families usually go out in taverns for sea food eating. Typical foods that can be eaten on the day are olives, shrimp, fish, feta cheese, taramosalata (fish roe dip), dry bread and yigandes (baked bean casserole). Octopus grilled over an open flame is a classic Greek meze to serve with ouzo and wine, and a favourite on Clean Monday. (For the less adventurous, fried calamari is a delicious alternative.)
Because Clean Monday is also considered to mark the first day of spring, Greeks tend to celebrate it with outdoor activities. A favourite place to hang out is Filopappos Hill where you will see many a Greek family, young and old, picnicking and flying kites! The hill is situated just opposite the Acropolis and even if you don’t have a kite, the hill offers the most amazing, uninterrupted view of the Acropolis and beyond to Pireaus, Aegina and other neighbouring islands (but the kite is highly recommended).
So don’t freak out if you happen to see picnic baskets minus the meat, you are still amongst Greeks, wine and ouzo will warm your hearts as will the live music provided by the municipality of Athens.