Lent, Meaning And Customs In Greece

Great Lent is the fast that precedes Easter.

We call it the Great Fast to distinguish it from the fast that precedes Christmas, which is called the “Little Fast” because it is lighter. So in our time, Great Lent begins on Clean Monday and ends on Holy Saturday. It is called Lent because it commemorates Christ’s 40-day fast in the desert and was established in the 4th century.

The initial duration was six weeks, and later a seventh week was added, and finally it lasts 48 days. Throughout Lent, on Wednesdays and Fridays, the Pre-consecration Service is celebrated in our church. During this, the faithful can receive Holy Communion, but it is consecrated on the previous Sunday. For this reason, this is called the Preconsecrated Sequence. Some days of Great Lent have a special meaning and semantics of their own. The Saturday of the first week of Lent is dedicated to the miracle of the columbines of the great martyr Theodore of Tiron. The miracle that helped the Christians of Constantinople to observe the fast, which the Emperor of Byzantium, Julian the Betrayer, tried to infect by fraudulent means.

The first Sunday of Lent is the Sunday of Orthodoxy. We celebrate the restoration of the holy and sacred icons by the Empress of Byzantium Theodora in 843 AD.

The second Sunday of Lent is dedicated to the memory of Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessaloniki (14th century). Saint Gregory was a leading teacher of the Orthodox doctrines and an opponent of heresies.

The third Sunday of Lent is the Sunday of the Pilgrimage of the Cross. This day is dedicated to the Holy and Life-Giving Cross, the symbol of our faith.

A day on which the faithful gain strength to continue their journey, their fasting, which will lead them to the Resurrection of the Lord.

The Fourth Sunday of Lent is the day commemorating the memory of Saint John.

The ladder is a book of sermons by St. John. The subject of these discourses is the steps of the spiritual ascent of the monks through their personal practice.

The Wednesday of the 5th week of Lent is the Wednesday of the Great Canon. The author and composer of the Great Canon is our Holy Father Andrew, the Archbishop of Crete. In the 250 troparia that make up the Canon, he has collected the stories from Adam to the Ascension of the Lord.

It calls on each of us to follow their example, to imitate the good and avoid the bad that our ancestors did.

On Friday of the same week is the Hymn of Praise. A day dedicated to the Virgin Mary who always stands by Christians in times of peace or war.

We celebrate the miracles performed by the Virgin Mary in protecting the Kingdom of Constantinople from peoples who wanted to conquer it.

After such a victory, the people of Constantinople, standing (unseated), thanked the Theotokos by singing.

Remembering this event, we in turn thank the Virgin Mary by standing and singing.

The Fifth Sunday of Lent is dedicated to the memory of the St. Mary of Egypt.

Ossia, from the age of 12, led a very dissolute life.

At the age of 30, he came into contact with Christianity, repented and worshipped.

The rest of her life, 47 years, she spent in the desert. On this day all are called to imitate her example and come closer to Christ by repenting of their sins.

The Saturday before Holy Week is the Sabbath of Lazarus.

A day dedicated to the miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus from Christ.

Τελευταία Κυριακή της Μεγάλης Σαρακοστής, είναι η Κυριακή των Βαΐων.

It is a day dedicated to Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem from Bethany.

Then the people welcomed Christ with cheers and with “palm tree vases”, from which this day took its name.

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Customs and traditions of Lent

Greece is distinguished by the multitude of customs and traditions that have followed us for years and that define our identity and are a reference point of our country.

Thus, the customs of Lent, which is one of the greatest fasts of Orthodoxy and certainly culminates in the Holy Week, the week when all Greeks are overwhelmed by the divine passion and experience the emotion of the Passion of Christ.

Lent is called in the Orthodox Church the period of fasting lasting forty days. Although there is a corresponding period of fasting before Christmas called the Little Lent or the Forty Days, the term Lent refers mainly to the fast of the period before Easter, which is older and stricter.

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The most famous custom of Lent is “The Lady of Lent”. Once upon a time, when calendars were missing and people wanted to have some sense of time during Lent, they had found an easy way by doing the following:

They would pretend Lent was a virtual Lent like Kalogria. They would take a piece of paper and draw a woman with scissors. The Lady of Lent has no mouth because she is all fasting, her arms are crossed for prayers. She has 7 legs, the 7 weeks of Lent. Every Saturday they cut off a leg. The last leg was cut off on Holy Saturday, they would put it in a dried fig or nut and whoever found it would bring him luck! Elsewhere they made their “Lady of Lent” into cloth and filled it with feathers.

Also, during Lent, housewives cleaned and whitewashed the houses and made various preparations for Easter.

Megali Sarakosti…!

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One of the most widespread customs, which is kept by almost all households every year, is the painting of eggs on Maundy Thursday.  Tradition has it that the eggs should be red, although in recent years it has become customary to dye the eggs in various colours and designs. Although the origin of the red color is not clear, interpretations say that it symbolizes the sacrifice of Christ and his blood. The egg, hermetically sealed, is said to symbolize Jesus’ tomb.

Finally, in Pontus, on Clean Monday, each family would take a baked potato or an onion and seven chicken feathers which symbolized the seven weeks of Lent, wrap the potato with the feathers and hang it from the ceiling in the room. Each week they would take off a feather. The “koukouras,” they called it, was the fear of the children. When a baby asked for milk or yogurt, the mother would hit the potato with a stick with the feathers to scare the baby and say: “What you said, the potato heard and moved.” Every week that passed, each family would take a feather from their home potato and throw it away until Easter came. When they ran out of feathers Easter would arrive and then they would say: “Now we can eat meat.”


Photos Studio27 by Andreas Politis

Sarakosti Greek Orthodox Traditions

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