Patras, fasting and kite flying

Whether you have lived in Athens for years or just happen to be in town, you will enjoy the annual three-day outdoor celebration starting Saturday. Try an excursion to Patras on Sunday for the opening of its lively Carnival. On Clean Monday the capital will be deserted as everyone goes to the countryside and the hills to fly kites, if there’s enough of a breeze. Otherwise they stay indoors or go to tavernas, where they indulge in a delicious Lenten feast. Monday is the first day of Sarakosti, or Lent, which means 40 days of fasting until Easter. The tables are laden with pulses, lettuce and other types of salads, olives and taramosalata, and the special bread called lagana which bakers make only on that day. When he was prime minister, the late Constantine Karamanlis supervised the revamping of the area around the Acropolis according to a design by Dimitris Pikionis, and he used to go there every Clean Monday to eat mezes and help children fly their kites. The current prime minister, Costas Karamanlis, has followed his example, and flies a kite with his children Alexandros and Aliki at Rafina. What matters is to keep up the tradition in the family circle. That is why Dimitris Loukatos, a wise professor from Cephalonia, wrote his books about the customs and feasts of Orthodoxy in different parts of Greece, leaving an invaluable legacy. The photograph of the boy with the kite is from Loukatos’s collection and it is on the cover of his book «Easter and Spring.» As Loukatos notes, the kite «is an ancestor of today’s rockets, an image of man’s great interest in the space beyond the Earth, where he wanted to send something of his own since he could not go there himself.»