There’s a cumulative sigh of relief coming from cows, sheep, goats, chickens and fish all over Greece. The period of Carnival is over; this week started with Καθαρή Δευτέρα, Clean Monday, when all of the Orthodox-approved foods were rolled out onto long banquet tables and shared with the neighborhood. Bahs, moos, and cluk-cluks were strictly forbidden, and will remain so until April 24th, Orthodox Easter, hence the happy animals. An interesting loophole that makes squid and octopus squirm more than usual- seafood sans spine is considered clean and therefore eaten in copious quantities.
Another special thing about Clean Monday is yet another feast bread. Lagana is prepared with anise and coated with sesame. It’s similar to a focaccia but less oily and a hint of sweetness. Curious to try it yourself? Go to this blog for the recipe.
Should you be happening upon Athens in the duration between Clean Monday and Easter, wish everyone you pass on the street a “Kali Sarakosti!” Or happy lent. In the case of McDonald’s, a Happy McLent.
Along with delighting in seasonal meals that involve beans, grains, and seafood like grilled octopus and boiled shrimp, Clean Monday brings in the spirit of Spring. Traditionally the day involves picnics or neighborhood buffets and families flying kites on the hillsides. In Athens, Philopappou Hill is a popular place to congregate whether you’re from near or far.
This year Clean Monday brought in the surprisingly frigid winds one would expect from France, Holland, or Scotland, but Athens? Today, those of us who woke up early enough were gifted with the rare sight of snow dusting the fallen column on the Temple of Zeus, clinging to the domes of the Orthodox churches- even sugaring the Parthenon. Those of us who didn’t have the courage to get up and out in the cold before those spell-binding visions were chased off by the sun (one NileGuide Local Expert included but I won’t name names) were still able to see something wondrous if they happened to get out of the city center: the three mountains of Attica, Pendeli, Hymettos, and Parnitha, frosted like birthday cakes.