All About the Christmas Nativity Fast in Greece
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The Nativity Fast is a period where members of the church abstain, fast, and do penance in anticipation of the day of Christ’s birth. In the Orthodox Christian Church, it is one of the major fasts that take place in the calendar year. It goes for 40 days and is observed from November 15 to December 24, with the Church of the East fasting dawn to dusk from December 1-25, while other churches have the fast begin December 10. Here are more details about the Nativity Fast:
What Greek Orthodox Christians Believe About the Fast
People fast during the Nativity Fast as a way to focus on the Kingdom of God. It is a way to put one’s energies towards the Lord and put import on the present moment while freeing us from worldly material things. Fasting is a way to practice faith and individuals during this time must do it in secret, while abstaining from the ego and judging others. People fast to get closer to God, become more Christ-like, to turn their eyes toward God and pray, to be delivered from carnal or worldly passions and desires, and observe Christ’s redemption on the cross and our salvation. Since body and soul are together, material fasting from food in combination with prayer, almsgiving, and fasting from carnal emotions is paramount.
Know Who Should Participate in the Fast
Those who are practicing Orthodox Christians often participate in this fast. However, there are some who should abstain from it. If you have recently had a child, are pregnant, or are nursing and taking care of a newborn, you should not fast. You should also avoid fasting if you do not intend to do so with prayer and with the giving of alms. Do not fast if you are going to abstain from the spiritual aspect and proceed without spiritual guidance, and if you are suffering a serious illness or your doctor advises you to not participate due to your health. Those who are very young, old, or sick are exempt.
What are the Guidelines for Nativity Fasting?
The fast usually involves fasting 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 is 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. Shellfish may be allowed even on days that exempt fish except for these.
Paramony is something that also occurs on Christmas Eve and is considered to be the strictest fasting day because no solid food should be consumed until the first star comes in the evening sky. However, if it falls on Saturday or Sunday, the fasting is not strict and allows a meal with wine and oil after the morning’s Divine Liturgy. The fast lasts until the evening’s first star is spotted or until after the Vesperal Divine Liturgy. December 25-January 4 there is no fasting, but January 5, the Eve of the Theophany, is another Paramony or strict fast day.
After the Christmas Eve service in Greece, it is the tradition to come home from church to break the fast. This is their first time they are able to eat certain foods, and the people definitely make the most of it by enjoying a lavish meal.
Categorized in: Greek Christmas Traditions
This post was written by Greek Boston