|Observed by||Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Christians; Eastern Catholics|
|Date||48 days before Pascha Sunday|
|Related to||First day of Great Lent|
Clean Monday (Greek: Καθαρά Δευτέρα, Kathara Deftera), also known as Pure Monday, Ash Monday, Monday of Lent or Green Monday, is the first day of Great Lent throughout Eastern Christianity and is a moveable feast, falling on the sixth Monday before Palm Sunday which begins Holy Week, preceding Pascha Sunday (Easter).
The common term for this day, "Clean Monday", refers to the leaving behind of sinful attitudes and non-fasting foods. It is sometimes called "Ash Monday", by analogy with Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent in Western Christianity). The term is often a misnomer, as only a small subset of Eastern Catholic Churches practice the imposition of ashes. The Maronite, Chaldean and the Syro-Malabar Catholic Churches are notable amongst the Eastern rites employing the use of ashes on this day.
Clean Monday is part of the paschal cycle, and as such it depends on the paschal computus which may differ between denominations and churches.[a] Additionally, the date may also depend on the calendar used by the particular church, such as the (revised) Julian calendar used by Eastern Orthodox churches, the Gregorian calendar used by Eastern Catholics, and the Ethiopian or Coptic calendars traditionally used by some Oriental Orthodox churches.
Liturgically, Clean Monday—and thus Lent itself—begins on the preceding (Sunday) night, at a special service called Forgiveness Vespers, which culminates with the Ceremony of Mutual Forgiveness, at which all present will bow down before one another and ask forgiveness. In this way, the faithful begin Lent with a clean conscience, with forgiveness, and with renewed Christian love. The entire first week of Great Lent is often referred to as "Clean Week", and it is customary to go to Confession during this week, and to clean the house thoroughly.
The theme of Clean Monday is set by the Old Testament reading appointed to be read at the Sixth Hour on this day (Isaiah 1:1–20), which says, in part:
Wash yourselves and ye shall be clean; put away the wicked ways from your souls before Mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well. Seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, consider the fatherless, and plead for the widow. Come then, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: Though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as snow; and though they be red like crimson, I will make them white as wool (vv. 16–18).
Traditionally, it is considered to mark the beginning of the spring season, a notion which was used symbolically in Ivan Bunin's critically acclaimed story, Pure Monday. The happy, springtime atmosphere of Clean Monday may seem at odds with the Lenten spirit of repentance and self-control, but this seeming contradiction is a marked aspect of the Orthodox approach to fasting, in accordance with the Gospel lesson (Matthew 6:14–21) read on the morning before, which admonishes:
When ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face, that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret... (v. 16–18).
In this manner, the Orthodox celebrate the fact that "the springtime of the Fast has dawned, the flower of repentance has begun to open".
Eating meat, eggs and dairy products is traditionally forbidden to Orthodox Christians throughout Lent, which begins with Clean Monday. Fish is eaten only on major feast days, but shellfish is permitted in European denominations. This has created the tradition of eating elaborate dishes based on seafood (shellfish, molluscs, fish roe etc.).
Clean Monday is a public holiday in Greece and Cyprus, where it is celebrated with outdoor excursions, the consumption of shellfish and other fasting food,[b] a special kind of azyme bread, baked only on that day, named "lagana" (Greek: λαγάνα) and the widespread custom of flying kites, as it symbolises "trying to reach the Divine".