Greeks celebrate first day of Lent with kite flying and picnics

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Greeks celebrated the end of the three-week carnival season and the first day of Lent on Monday, with family picnics, singing, dancing and kite flying.

Clean Monday (Kathara Deytera in Greek) is a public holiday in Greece, marking the 40-day countdown to Easter for Greek Orthodox Christians.

Until then traditionally they will not eat dishes containing meat, eggs and dairy products. The purpose according to tradition is to "clean their body and soul" for the Easter feast.

In recent years most Greeks do not observe the 40-day fasting, but on Clean Monday the overwhelming majority enjoy traditional delicacies based on shellfish and a type of bread named "lagana" which is baked only on this day.

The average cost of Clean Monday's picnic snacks was by 7.8 percent higher than last year, according to the Ministry of Economy, Development and Tourism.

Most Greek children are eager for Clean Monday for another reason. It is the day of filling the skies with kites.

According to some scholars, the custom of kite flying arrived in Greece from the East. Others claim that its origin in the Mediterranean is traced back to the experiments of ancient Greek mathematician Archytas (428-347 BC). 

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