Carnival and Clean Monday in Attica: a long thrilling weekend full of traditions and events

A long weekend, with the last Sunday of the Carnival and Clean Monday, is the ideal occasion for everyone to join the festivities all along Attica. On Sunday 17 March, people of all ages dress up in their costumes and on Monday 18 March they flood nearby hills and beaches for traditional kite-flying.

Downtown, two spots will be the center of carnival celebrations this year. On Sunday morning, the forecourt of Zappeion will host the City of Athens Symphony Orchestra, filling the air with music, whereas stilt walkers, balloon structures, facepainting, circus performers and other surprises will fascinate young partyers. In the afternoon, a parade known as the “Plaka Carnival” walks through Syntagma Square, Ermou street and Monastiraki square, while jogglers and brazilian percussion instruments give the rhythm and melodically denote the end of the Athenian Carnival season.

If, however, you are lucky enough and spend this day on an island of Attica, embrace the local traditions and delve into the fun and spark pouring out of their narrow streets. In Aegina, the carnival parade starts at noon from the Municipal Stadium, with the Fox and the Rabbit being its two main mascots. At “Palaia Provlita” spot of the island, enjoy “Gaitanaki” (maypole), a folk-dance tradition whose colorful complexity is sure to thrill you.

On the island of Spetses, the vivid parade takes place in the afternoon, followed by a traditional party at Agios Mamas. In the evening, at the same area, the Carnival King is set on fire, dispelling evil spirits. In Hydra, masquerades parade at noon and join the hanging of the Carnival King, just before starting a joyful celebration with folk songs and melodies.

The last Sunday of the Carnival is not just a folk fun-filled day; it also carries a strong symbolism dating back to the orthodox tradition. Also known as Tyrini Sunday (Cheesefare Sunday), this is the last day that people can consume dairy before the big Lent fasting. In the past, people used to ask their elder relatives for forgiveness. Free from resentment, people head to the Holy Easter, with pure spirit and clear conscience.

Clean Monday, on the 18th of March this year, is the first day of the Lent, the orthodox 40-day fasting before Easter. Believers get to have both their bodies and souls “purified”, preparing themselves for the devout concentration that comes with the Christ’s Resurrection. Kite-flying, a traditional custom of the day, represents our souls flying up into the sky. The higher the kite, the more likely for God to hear our prayers.

The first day of fasting defines the special menu of the day. Either enjoyed at improvised picnics or at greek tavernas and restaurants, seafood such as octopus, shrimps, fried squid or mussels, fish roe salad (taramas), halva, legumes such as beans or fava spread, stuffed vine leaves (dolmadakia), olives and pickled vegetables, are the top choices. Lagana of course, the flat unleavened crusty bread exclusively baked on Clean Monday, is the star of the day.

Philopappos Hill is a must spot for kite-flying in Athens. While live music vibes fill the air, the blue sky is adorned with technicolor paper structures, captured in countless photos. Another event is hosted at the Child & Culture Park in the area of Ampelokipoi, where Athenians may also enjoy a traditional party with a live concert and treats.

At the eastern beach of Varkiza, in the morning of Clean Monday, those wishing to spend the day by the sea will enjoy fasting snacks and treats. In Piraeus, specifically at Freatida beach, there will be a big folk celebration with live music, traditional dishes and plenty of wine. In Alykes beach of Anavyssos, lagana bread and taramas salad will be offered for free and children will play with facepainting and bubble shows.

On the island of Aegina, celebrations take place at Prophet Elias hill, in Vathy area, where locals and visitors join together and enjoy traditional dishes, dance and party. In Spetses, kite-flying or, as locals prefer it ‘the flying of filandra’, is actually a true competition, to be followed by a traditional feast with music and delicious treats.

No matter where you are about to spend this long weekend in Attica, grab the chance and join the festivities with folk traditions and customs, embrace their energy and live each moment to the fullest!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email