November 15 marks forty days until Christmas and in the Greek Orthodox Church, the Nativity Fast begins today!
The 40-day fasting period otherwise known as Christmas Lent is when the Greek Orthodox Church gives the faithful periods of fasting and reflection in order to refocus on the spiritual life, to challenge them and to help them make adjustments, as they experience the Holy Nativity of our Lord and Saviour in a real and meaningful way.
The Nativity Fast is like the fast of Easter Lent, but not quite as strict
The Nativity Fast is one of four main fast periods throughout the ecclesiastical year. Beginning on November 15 and concluding on December 24, the Nativity Fast gives individuals the opportunity to prepare for the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior in the Flesh on December 25.
This is the time in the Orthodox Church where attention is drawn to the great mystery of the Incarnation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as we await his coming in anticipation of the great joy of His birth on Christmas Day. For preparation, the Church asks the faithful to participate in a fast by abstaining from certain food and drink, particularly from meat, fish, dairy products, olive oil, and wine, as well as focusing more deeply on prayer and almsgiving.
The fast usually involves abstaining from certain foods. Eggs, dairy, poultry, red meat, meat products, oil, fish and wine are all abstained from. However, some of these foods are allowed at certain times for most fasters. On Saturday and Sunday, fish, oil, and wine are acceptable to consume. Oil and wine are also allowed on Tuesday and Thursday, with some exceptions. Fish, wine, and oil are allowed on November 16, November 30, December 4, 6, 12, and 20. No fish may be consumed from December 20-24, and hymns are sung during this time. From the 20th of December on it is a strict fast with wine and oil allowed only on Saturday and Sunday.
After the Christmas Eve service in Greece, it is tradition to come home from church and to break the fast by enjoying a lavish meal with family and friends.
Happy and Blessed Nativity Fast to all.