Orthodox Clean Monday: February 15
Orthodox Clean Monday is a religious observance for Orthodox Christians all over the world.
Clean Monday is the first day of the Great Lent that precedes Easter in Orthodox Christian Churches. It is like Ash Wednesday for Western Churches. The name gives away the intentions of the day: to leave all sinful behavior behind and enter the Great Lent period with a clean heart, ready to celebrate Easter.
History of Orthodox Clean Monday
As early as the first century, Easter was celebrated and Lent was observed as a period of preparation for the great celebrations of Easter. Clean Monday became a natural celebration on its own by all Christians. Considering the time ahead of Lent and all the sacrifices to be undertaken during the following weeks, the day of Clean Monday became a day to kick start all that was about to come. It was a day of preparation for Lent and for everyone to gradually enter into the spirit of the season.
Fasting was observed and no meat was to be eaten, leading to traditional dishes based on fish or shellfish. The path wasn’t easy, and soon the church recommended harsh means to attain the correct way to reach Easter with a soul ready to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus: fasting, almsgiving, self denial, penitence and simplicity. Clean Monday took on all of these facets and became the first stepping stone to start the Great Lent period.
Orthodox Clean Monday Traditions, Customs and Activities
Clean Monday is a public holiday in many Orthodox Christian countries. In Greece it is a day to celebrate with the family and go to the beach or prepare picnics. Kite flying is very common on this day and marks the beginning of spring. Greek children make Kyra Sarakosti (Lady Lent), a paper doll with seven legs that stands for the seven weeks of Lent. One leg will be cut for each week that passes until Easter.
Also in Greece, in Galaxidi, people throw at each other colored flour in the streets of the city. In the end, everything is less than clean, giving new meaning to Clean Monday. This festival is known as the Aleuromountzouromata. In Tyrnavos the Lent season is turned upside down with a festival called Dirty Monday, with roots to another festival dedicated to Dionysius. During the festival it is common to drink wine from phallic shaped cups, and everyone tells sexual jokes.
Aside from the enthusiastic Greek Orthodox celebrations, all over the world Orthodox Christians celebrate this day in a more moderate way and begin to observe fasting and simpler ways to celebrate Lent.