Clean Monday marks the beginning of the fasting period, that typically counts forty days leading up to Easter, and is a time of cleansing the body and soul. Deeply rooted in Greek heritage, Easter is a national celebration, when Christianity praises the ascension of Christ into the heavens. Therefore the symbolism of the lent period that Clean Monday instigates is great. As we are approaching Clean Monday, Lemnos experiences a custom that is quite specific to the region of the North Aegean which we would like to share.
On the Sunday of Tirini, the eve of Clean Monday, the entire family goes to the evening procession in order to practice forgiveness. Following this profoundly meaningful action, a festivity ensues that brings the family closer together. At the dinner table, the family plays the “egg game” that marks the ending of the carnival season, and is again reintroduced on the night of Anastasis, the Resurrection of Christ. Essentially, Clean Monday signals the beginning of the fasting period during which eggs, together with meat and dairy products are not allowed, and so it is the last time eggs will be seen on the table for the next forty days until Easter.
The “egg game” is typically led by the head of the family, usually the father, who ties a hard boiled end on a string and hangs it from the ceiling. The rest of the family members take turns trying to catch the egg with their mouths, without using their hands at all. This is incredibly fun for both the young and old, resulting in a pleasant evening that acts as family bonding activity.
Whoever succeeds in doing so is considered to be the lucky one, and is congratulated by the rest of the family members, who will take extra care of them during the next day when the Clean Monday celebrations are in order. On Clean Monday, it is popular to take to the outdoors to fly kites and feast on delicacies that mainly comprise of seafood, a special Clean Monday bread called ‘lagana’ and a dessert called halva. This is what Greeks call “Koulouma”, and the fasting period leading up to Easter is known as “Sarakosti.”