Sarakosti in Greece

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 devout 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.


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.

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