Greeks and other culturally Orthodox people fast during Lent, for around 7 weeks ahead of Easter. There are other fasting periods but this is the biggest and most important one and the one even many non-religious or secular people of Greek or Orthodox heritage follow for health reasons, out of curiosity or for lifestyle reasons. Here is some advice on what to eat for Lent!
Generally, during Lent people abstain from eating anything with blood, i.e. meat, fish and dairy products. They also abstain from using wine and olive oil on most days.
Fish is allowed on March 25 (Annunciation) and Palm Sunday i.e. the Sunday before Orthodox Easter Sunday.
Oil and wine are allowed on Saturdays and Sundays, except for Holy Saturday.
Shellfish is consumed because it does not contain blood (this is the exact opposite to Judaism food thinking where shellfish is not consumed at all).
Lent is a great time to start eating more vegetables and discover more delicious recipes for pulses. When thinking about what to eat for Lent, turn your thoughts to fresh fruit and vegetables, dried fruits and nuts of all kinds.
Most people don’t really stick to a strict lent regime. I would certainly not recommend adhering to a very strict Lent regime if this is your first time fasting. Young children usually only practice Lent for the week before Easter and so do many adults. Others give up dairy meat for the entire 7-week period and tighten up their regime for the last Holy Week.
Suggested Lent Levels
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America website features the following guide to some levels of fasting:
- L1 — Fast from meat on Wednesdays and Fridays and during Holy Week
- L2– Fast from meat and fish on Wednesdays and Fridays and during Holy Week
- L3 — Fast from meat the entirety of Lent and Holy Week
- L4– Fast from meat and fish the entirety of Lent and Holy Week
- L5 — Level four and eliminate dairy products during Holy Week
- L6 — Level four and eliminate dairy products on Wednesday and Fridays and during Holy Week.
- L7 — Level four plus eliminate dairy products during all of Lent and Holy Week
- L8 — Level seven plus eliminate oil and wine during Holy Week
- L9 — The strict fast – no meat, fish, dairy products, wine or oil during the entirety of Great Lent
If and what kind of fasting you go for is all up to you! Whatever the case you will find a number of delicious Greek family recipes that comply with some, most or even all Lent rules!