Lagana, halvas, and taramas, otherwise known as “the Koulouma,” are the official foods of the first day of Lent in Greece, a day known as “Clean Monday.”

Having the same meaning as Ash Wednesday for Catholics, the Greek Orthodox Day marking the beginning of Lent is connected to different ancient customs.
The most important customs are the flying of kites, going on outdoor excursions and the consumption of these particular delicacies.
All the Greek “Clean Monday” customs date back to ancient times. But why do we eat these particular foods on this day? Do we really know what these foods stand for? And why is it that we eat only Lagana, on Clean Monday?Clean Monday is the first day of the Forty Days of Lent. It marks the beginning of the Great Fast, the preparatory period for believers before the great feast of Easter.
Thus, the first week of the forty days is called “Clean Week.” This seven-day period gives the believer time to purify himself and get ready for Easter, or “Pascha,” (Easter).

The Lagana is a a special kind of “azyme” (unleavened) bread, which is baked only on that day, and symbolizes the manna offered by God to the people of Israel while He led them away from Egypt to the promised land.

The semolina-based halvas is a common food found in the Balkan countries, Turkey and Israel, and is usually homemade. It is a very plain and densely-grained confection made of ground sesame, sugar, water and oil.

“Taramas” is the word Greeks use to describe the small salty beads of the red caviar (fish roe) of cod. The culinary appreciation of fish roe dates back to the Byzantine ages.  It is considered to be one of the finest kinds of the delicacy.

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