Ash Monday marks the beginning of the 40-day Easter Fast as well as the end of the Carnival. The fast lasts 40 days, just like the number of days that Jesus fasted in the desert. Ash Monday is celebrated 48 days before the Sunday of Jesus’ resurrection, the Orthodox Easter.
Traditions of Ash Monday Around Greece
There are a number of traditions held around Greece regarding Ash Monday…..
- In Theva, they have the ancient tradition where they shave the groom and adorn the bride, who is in fact a man.
- In Mesta and Olympus of Chios island, the “Agas” tradition — the roots trace back to the Turkish rule — features a man as a strict “judge,” who condemns the audience with humor and teasing.
- In Alexandroupoli, a resident dresses up as a Bey and walks around the city, saying good wishes to everyone.
- In Karpathos, a “Popular Court of Immoral Deeds” is reenacted where the audience exchanges improper gestures, and are led in front of the “court” in order to be served by justice.
- In Galaxidi, the tradition is flour-smearing; carnavalists dance and throw flour.
- In Methony, the marriage of Koutroulis — a real wedding that had occurred in the 14th century — is re-enacted with humor.
- In Vonitsa, the tradition of “Achyrenios Gligorakis” is to tie a straw-made fisherman on a donkey, that walks around the village and finally ends up in flames on a boat in the open sea.
Recipes for the Ash Monday Table
In several regions in Greece, on Ash Monday, people clean out their fridges, from whatever is left from the non-fasting foods of the carnival. The table of Ash Monday includes fasting dishes like chalva, tarama, olives, pickles, sea food and bean soup. The food is accompanied by lagana, which is a type of flat, crispy bread without sourdough.