Kathara Deutera, or “Clean Monday” (translated from Greek) is a special day for Eastern Orthodox Christians, as it marks the beginning of the period of fasting that precedes Pascha (Easter) known as Great Lent.
The date of Kathara Deftera changes from year to year. This is because Orthodox Christians use the Julian calendar (as opposed to the Gregorian calendar) to establish the date of Easter. Because the official day of Easter changes every year, it is often a different day than in Western traditions. The day is celebrated throughout Greece and Cyprus as a public holiday and includes festivities such as picnics and gatherings where people come together and partake in lenten foods. However, Orthodox Christians throughout the world celebrate Clean Monday. The day is an opportunity to start the fasting period off with the right mindset and attitude.
What foods are considered lenten? During the period of fasting, Orthodox Christians refrain from eating meat and dairy products. Common lenten foods include legumes, certain seafood, and vegetables. Different ethnic groups consume different dishes, but the general idea behind the social gathering is the same: coming together. Usually, after a church service, people gather to begin the lenten period in a “clean” manner. It is customary to try and start the period with a clean conscience, heart, and renewed spirit. Christians try to leave behind sinful attitudes and replace them with habits that display the self-control and discipline exhibited throughout Great Lent.
This year, Clean Monday falls on Monday, February 27th, 2017. If you celebrate, be sure to keep in mind the significance behind the tradition. If you do not celebrate, but know someone who does, I encourage you to wish them a wonderful lenten period.