This year we celebrated Clean Monday at Spiliotissa Monastery with family and friends, which sounds much more religious than it was. There was a short church service at the old Spiliotissa church, where a religious icon was found in the sixteenth century, which we chose to sit out as the church was tiny.
We did take plenty of time to appreciate the Monastery and it’s surroundings (which, as you will see in the pictures were beautiful).
About Clean Monday
Clean Monday in Greece is the equivalent to Ash Wednesday in the UK, but is a much bigger celebration. It is the official start of Lent, which lasts for seven weeks, until Easter. Which if followed traditionally means giving up meat, dairy and olive oil for the whole of the seven weeks.
Those who can’t manage the full seven weeks on the restricted diet, often just fast for the what is known as the ‘Big Week’ (Μεγαλη Εβδομαδα), which is the week leading up to Easter and some will choose to limit their diet even more in that week.
On Clean Monday seafood, beans, salads and a special unleavened bread are eaten and kites are flown.
The Tradition Of Kite Flying On Clean Monday
My favourite tradition on Clean Monday is by far the flying of kites. The traditional shape of the kites flown on Clean Monday is hexagonal, although these days you see kites of all shapes and sizes. Apparently the tradition of kite flying is to symbolize the unburdening of the soul and it is believed that the higher a kite flies the closer we are to our creator.
I wouldn’t like to say how many people are actually aware of why kites are flown, probably not that many, but it is a fun tradition enjoyed by everyone, young and old.
Our Clean Monday At Spiliotissa Monastery, Zakynthos
This year we broke from our usual habit of heading down to Keri to fly our kite and soak up the atmosphere and spent our Clean Monday at Spiliotissa Monastery in the village of Orthonies.
We spent Clean Monday at Spiliotissa Monastery.
We had permission to photograph inside the main church.
Orthodox Churches are always rather ornate.
Where people place a lit candle in the hope of a prayer being answered or in memory of a loved one.
It was the first year that the Monastery had held Clean Monday celebrations and they did themselves proud.
We arrived at eleven o’clock to meet up with friends to go on a short walk to where a religious icon was found by a priest back in the sixteenth century. Not expecting the walk to be difficult we turned up in trainers (many of the locals turned up in their Sunday finery), but it wasn’t long before we realized that the walk was going to be a little more than a gentle stroll.
We were told that the walk was to be about forty minutes each way, through undergrowth (it was so over grown that the chap in front carried a chainsaw).
Pictures Really Do Speak Louder Than Words…
At this point we were unaware of exactly what was meant by undergrowth.
We certainly didn’t expect to be walking through this for forty minutes.
The funniest thing I saw was this sign in the undergrowth, pointing us in the right direction.
The old Spiliotissa church where the religious icon was found, was well hidden.
The front of the old Spiliotissa church.
Some of us waited outside whilst the service was conducted.
The main Spiliotissa Monastery we had trekked from (and still had to trek back to!).
After the walk we were invited to eat bean soup, pickled vegetables and the traditional unleavened bread (lagana bread). There was also plenty of village wine being offered too and a good time was had by all who drank it and those who didn’t… My Mum having a cheeky glass or two.
Then the kite flying commenced, which is always a laugh… Notice Mum still holding her wine?
Trying to take that wine from Mum was like taking a bone from a starving dog, but she was happy.
The view of the mainland directly behind where we were flying the kites.
To Sum Up The Day
Clean Monday at Spiliotissa Monastery was probably one of the best Clean Mondays we have ever had.
We were made to feel welcome by the locals and the priest was probably one of the most unpriestlike priests I have ever met; he personally came to offer us coffee, trekked through the undergrowth in a tracksuit and kept his service short and sweet.
Fingers crossed we get to do it all again next year!
I’d like to apologies for sharing more photos than I originally intended, but I thought they told the story better than I could.
Had you heard of Clean Monday before? And were you aware that in Easter in Greece is rarely celebrated at the same time as Easter in the UK? This year Easter Sunday is on May 1st over here.
© 2016, Debbie. All rights reserved.