Thursday, February 11, 2010

Clean Monday- Lady Lent

The first Monday of Lent is called Clean Monday or Καθαρά Δευτέρα. Schools and many offices are closed in Greece this day and people leave the cities to have picnics and fly kites. The sky fills with colorful kites as people participate in this lovely tradition. That day, people eat fasting food consisting of tarama (fish roe spread), calamaria, beans, salads, olives and any other food that does not include milk, cheese, fish, meat and eggs. Many people keep this fast throughout the whole lenten period, from Clean Monday until Pascha (Easter) Sunday (as is tradition in the Orthodox Church).

Another tradition related to "Clean" Monday is lady Lent (Κυρά Σαρακοστή). The lady of the house, would (and in many cases still does) bake a bread in the shape of a lady who has seven legs (as many weeks as there are in Lent). On her forehead would be a cross, the symbol of Christianity, her hands would be folded over in prayer, and she would not have a mouth because she fasts, just like Christ did . This strange little bread was called lady Lent, or Κυρά Σαρακοστή. Once it had been baked, it would be put near the icon center in the home and every Sunday that passed during lent, a leg would be removed. This was used as a calendar to count down to Pascha. The last leg would be removed on Holy Saturday.

Every year my Greek school class constructs a Κυρά Σαρακοστή out of poster board and the children all participate in decorating her. The children also construct their own Κυρά Σαρακοστή to take home and put by their icons. This is such a charming tradition that shows us the resourcefulness of those who came before us.

We also try to get outside to fly kites on "Clean" Monday during class, but with lent being so early this year, and the weather in Chicago not cooperating, we will be making kites in class on Monday.

Καλή Σαρακοστή!

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