Clean Monday – named after the cleansing of the soul and new beginnings – falls on March 11 this year.
The day takes its name from the cleansing of the soul and the new beginning that the day symbolises, as it is placed 40 days before the resurrection of Christ. This is also the starting point for the fasting period of the Orthodox religion.
However, another symbolic tradition takes place on this day that finds its roots deep in ancient times and is still practised in Greece today – kite flying!
According to historians, the first person documented to attempt such a thing was Archytas, a mathematician who lived in the fourth century BC. Archytas was a citizen of South Italy and a good friend of Plato and one of the final faithful followers of Pythagoras and his methods.
He created the kite in order to use it within his aerodynamic experiments.
Kite flying has a deeper meaning for those of the Christian faith, as it symbolises the elevation of the soul towards the heavens. The first kites that were spotted in Greece in the post-modern era came from the eastern areas and more specifically the Eptanisa, Chios, Samos, until they eventually made their way to the city of Patra and became common all around the country.
Other civilisations also took part in kite-flying festivals. In China, kites were made out of silk and bamboo in the shape of a dragon, a creature of worship within the nation.In Northern India there is a celebration every spring with kites parading in the sky to welcome the new season, with parades that find their roots in Hindu mythology. Additionally, it is said that the well-known explorer Marco Polo brought the kite to Europe during his journeys in the Middle Ages, remarking that it was known for its “dangerous flights.”
Nowadays of course the creation of a kite is quite simple, as it demands a little bit of wood, paper, some string and a large amount of imagination.
And if you do decide to follow the spirit of the day and try to fly one of your own, just be wary of any electricity poles!