Tell Greeks to Go Fly a Kite on Clean Monday and They’ll Thank You

Young and old, Athenians were thrilled by the soft breeze that lifted their kites high. (Photo by TNH/ Constantine S. Sirigos)

GLYFADA, GREECE – Καθαρα Δευτερα/Clean Monday is the first day of Lent, the annual period of spiritual development and preparation for Pascha for Orthodox Christians. In Greece, there is an old tradition of flying a kite on that day, and there were dozens if not hundreds aloft, launched on March 11 by adults and children alike on the slopes of Mt. Ymittos.

The kites are symbolic of the effort to reach the Divine, or at least, to elevate one’s self and to begin to move toward realizing higher aspirations for one’s self and humanity. As such, there is both a religious and secular dimension, and in many parts of Greece, local government funds Clean Monday festivals – it is in fact a national holiday.

The municipality of Glyfada southeast of Athens hosted a Clean Monday party complete with complimentary food – there was vegetable dolmades, halva, and the wonderful lagana – an unleavened flat bread that may have its roots in the Jewish Passover.

While Lent is a time with solemn overtones, repentance and a sincere effort to turn one’s life around – the literal meaning of the word μετάνοια is to change one’s mind or mindset – are the main themes, Clean Monday is a festive occasion, so those people who were not flying their kites joined in the circle dances on the slopes of Mt. Ymittos once the band began to play.

The Municipality of Glyfada provided free wine, food, and song. (Photo by TNH/ Constantine S. Sirigos)