SARAKOSTI / GREEK LENTEN CALENDAR
In Greece we call this 40 day lenten period Sarakosti which is exactly what the word means in Greek – 40 days.
The Great Lent starts on Clean Monday and ends on Holy Saturday, after midnight.
For the Orthodox Christians this is a time of going to church, fasting from foods that contain red blood (meats, poultry) and their products (milk, cheese,eggs etc) and fish and seafood with backbones.
On some days even olive oil and wine are restricted.
The purpose of course is to cleanse the body and the spirit but also to adhere to a discipline in preparation for the acceptance of the resurrection of Christ.
The Great 40 day Lent, the Sarakosti, is actually 50 days of lent! Many-many years ago the lent used to be 40 days. That’s how the name Sarakosti, which means 40 days, came along.
The name stayed the same even though the length of the fasting period has changed.
This is a time of church going and prayer for the orthodox Christians. There are different events that are celebrated in the church during the lent.
Let’s go back to the Apokries for a moment. The last two Saturdays of the Apokries the church remembers the dead. They call them Psihosavata. The first Saturday of the Lent is the last of the Psihosavata, and also the celebration of Agion Theothoron.
On these days in every house they make Koliva. They bless the koliva at the church and they share it for the forgiveness of the souls. I forgot to mention that this last Saturday is the name day of Theodoros and Theodora.
The Sunday of Orthodoxy
This is the celebration of the triumph of Orthodoxy against the heretics lead by Arios.
The first 5 Fridays of the Lent is the Heretismoi (salutations) to Panagia. The churches are filled these days. The Church and the people salute the Virgin Mary by singing the Akathisto Eemno. Everybody is standing when they sing this hymn. That’s why they call it Akathistos.
These are the most important events of the Great Lent before the Holy Week. The Greeks treat this period with great respect and with the ending of this they can eat and drink again whatever they want to celebrate Easter.
An old Greek tradition for the Great Lent. Kyra Sarakosti (Lady Lent)
An old Greek tradition which would be incorporated to help devout Orthodox Christians keep the strict three day fast has to do with a woman named Kyra Sarakosti (Lady Lent). The women especially back then would keep the three day fast like nuns, eating and drinking absolutely nothing during that time. When the three days were up they would only eat dry foods for the rest of Clean Week.
Kyra Sarakosti was their calendar for Great Lent. They would draw a woman on a piece of paper. They would not draw a mouth because the woman was fasting, and the hands were crossed as in prayer. She also had seven legs for the seven Sundays of Great Lent. Every Saturday a leg was cut off till she had no more legs after Holy Saturday. In Chios they would put these legs in a dried up fig or walnut tree and whoever found it would be considered blessed.
The people of Greece used calendars like this one to count down the remaining weeks of Lent until Easter.
1. Use colored pencils, or markers to decorate the girl’s dress.
2. Draw a face without a mouth to symbolize the fasting that occurs during this holiday.
3. Cut out the picture, and take off one of her shoes each week.