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 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 an honest 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 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 when 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 intensely 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, most fasters allow some of these foods at certain times.
Fish, oil, and wine are acceptable to consume on Saturday and Sunday.
Oil and wine are also allowed on Tuesday and Thursday, with some exceptions. Fish, wine, and oil are allowed on November 16, 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, 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.