It was two years ago when I first had the experience of watching Greeks fly kites on “Clean Monday.” In 2020, Clean Monday fell on March 2nd, and I was visiting Ancient Corinth with a little side trip to Acrocorinth. Shortly after that trip, we’d all be locked down for about two months.
This year, we’ve managed to have no lockdowns and so with a little freedom to enjoy a cool but partly sunny day, we decided to try to take part in this Greek custom of flying a kite on “Clean Monday.”
In Greek, the day is called Kathara Deftera and is the first day of Orthodox Lent.
Not far from the house, a Roma (Gypsy) woman had set up a stand beside the road where she was selling kites. When I took my camera out to take a photo, I sensed that she seemed a bit awkward about being photographed, so I’ll only post a photo that I took in which she cannot be fully seen or identified – but this was her kite stand:
When I was a young boy, I loved flying kites and I could get a decent kite along with a big roll of string from “Syd’s Variety” at Bayview PLaza in Richmond Hill for pocket change. They kites, although inexpensive were well designed, would hold up for many many days of kite flying, and were easy even a slight breeze to get up in the air – and sometimes I’d fly them so high, they’d just be a speck in the sky.
Most of the kites being sold here had a totally different shape than what I used to fly – a flat hexagon shape, that you really need to attach a tail to give it some balance. But even with the tail, the kite was so poorly designed that even with a breeze, we couldn’t get it flying for more than a few minutes and at no great height. There were a few others who went to the small beach we were at to fly kites – they did not have much better luck than we did except for one person, who managed to get his kite flying for about ten minutes. But he did not get a whole lot of vertical height – and the thing just ended up taking a nose dive and crashing into overhead power lines:
I remember two years ago, seeing a lot of this – kites just hanging from overhead power lines and abandoned. While it is a tradition in Greece to fly kites on “Clean Monday,” I think what happens is they have more fun simply going outside with something resembling a kite, with the idea of trying to fly them. Actually flying them for any length of time as I used to do would take a much better designed and constructed kite!
Our kite including a roll of string and a tail cost us 15 Euros. Next year, I’ll see what I can find somewhere else that will actually be enjoyable to get in the air and stay there for awhile.
Although we couldn’t get our kite into the air for any length of time, not all was lost! We were at a small beach not far from the house, and as according to Greek Tradition, we had a little picnic that included taramasalata, dolma, and lagana washed down with a small glass of ouzo.
Taramasalata is a tasty (for me anyway), mixture of roe, olive oil, and usually bread, and made into a paste like consistency. Dolma for those not aware are basically “olive leaf rolls” – stuffed with rice, and lagana is a traditional Greek flatbread consumed on Clean Monday. While enjoying our little picnic, this was our scenery:
The island across the straight is Makronisos, which means “Long Island.”
The beach we were at is quite small, and named Παραλία Περιγιάλι or Perigiali beach. Looking left, the coast looks like this, with Gelinas Street above. The street continues along the coast before curving back inland and meeting with Highway 89:
On the other side of the beach, there are houses that can be accessed from the beach from a path with some old stone stairs:
This evening, we’ll enjoy a big feed of seafood, another Orthodox tradition for the day, although we’ll use oil to cook them. Oil is not considered “clean” but hey, I’m not Orthodox, and I still like my food to taste they way I like it 🙂
Traditional Greek Orthodox observers will spend the next 40 days in “fasting,” wherein they will not eat meat other than seafood, refrain from dairy, and abandon wine and even olive oil.
Regardless of whether these strict rules are practiced, Greeks will wish others on this day, “Kali Sarakosti!” which literally means, “Happy Lent!” being the first of the 40 days of this religious observance time.