Monday 27 February is Clean Monday (literally translated, what is actually implied is “pure”) for the Greek Orthodox Church. It is the first day of the Easter fasting period. Traditionally it is spent in the countryside, with picnic food and the flying of kites. I have always believed that it is a memomy of our pagan festivities: it is the beginning of Spring, the rebirth of nature, when the air is still cool but is starting to warm up and the earth is slowly turning green from the new grass. Easter suits our climate and our temperament.

Despite the bad financial situation of most of the average income people everyone is preparing for the celebration: after all it is the feast of the poor. No meat or dairy is allowed, eggs are forbidden. It is “fasolada” (bean soup) day. Shellfish is frowned upon by the older people but is well represented on the fasting menu while calamari and inkfish are widely considered to be ok.
On Monday morning everyone rushes out to buy the special azyme bread called lagana that is eaten with tarama (fish roe mashed with stale bread, olive oil and lemon juice to taste) and eggplant dip (grilled and peeled eggplant, its flesh mashed with garlic and olive oil).

The women have a tacit competition: they try each other’s fasolada making the relevant comments. The modern housekeepers add innovative touches like saussages or chillis but usually what makes the day is the quality of the beans themselves. Raw salads, pickled vegetables, olives are the absolute must on Clean Monday and of course halva:a mixture of tahini, sesame butter and honey or sugar. Fresh fruit are the best desert, actually the only desert allowed.
Clean Monday is a family day and a day when old traditions are brought to the fore. Municipalities organize festivities and the skies fill with kites.
Could this return to the roots be part of our financial crisis too? A return to the values of social solidarity, hospitality, sharing, respect and so on.. I think it could.

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