The Nativity Fast

During the Nativity Fast the Church encourages us to intensify our spiritual lives in order to ready our souls and bodies for the Feast. We do this through fasting, prayer, alms-giving, confession and increased attention given to "preparing for His coming", to make sure we've done what we can to make a "fit dwelling place for Him" in our hearts and lives.

Bishop THOMAS reminds us that during the Fast it is appropriate to: 

"increase your prayer life, read more scripture and spiritual books, especially lives of the saints. A little less television, no anger, no gossiping, no laziness and let's try to avoid the Christmas parties. If we prepare in this way, God will bless us and we will find the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord to be far more spiritually rewarding than ever before. May God help us to struggle courageously." 

The Purpose of Fasting

The purpose of fasting is to focus on the things that are above, the Kingdom of God. It is a means of putting on virtue in reality, here and now. Through it we are freed from dependence on worldly things. We fast faithfully and in secret, not judging others, and not holding ourselves up as an example.

  • Fasting in itself is not a means of pleasing God. Fasting is not a punishment for our sins. Nor is fasting a means of suffering and pain to be undertaken as some kind of atonement. Christ already redeemed us on His Cross. Salvation is a gift from God that is not bought by our hunger or thirst.
  • We fast to be delivered from carnal passions so that God’s gift of Salvation may bear fruit in us.
  • We fast and turn our eyes toward God in His Holy Church. Fasting and prayer go together.
  • Fasting is not irrelevant. Fasting is not obsolete, and it is not something for someone else. Fasting is from God, for us, right here and right now.
  • Most of all, we should not devour each other. We ask God to “set a watch and keep the door of our lips.”

Fasting Periods

The Nativity Fast is one of the four Canonical Fasting Seasons in the Church year. This is a joyous fast in anticipation of the Nativity of Christ. That is the reason it is less strict than other fasting periods. The fast is divided into two periods.

  1. November 15th through December 19th the traditional fasting discipline (no meat, dairy, fish, wine, and oil) is observed. There is dispensation given for wine and oil on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Similarly, fish, wine, and oil are permitted on Saturdays and Sundays.

  2. December 20th through the 24th traditional fasting discipline (no meat, dairy, fish, wine, and oil) is observed. There is dispensation given for wine and oil only on Saturday and Sunday during this period. 

Meat Dairy Fish Wine Oil
Abstinence includes refraining from the food and drink mentioned above, as well as from smoking. The Eucharistic Fast means abstaining from at least the previous midnight for communing at a morning Liturgy.
Abstain Abstain Sat & Sun Tue, Thur, Sat, & Sun Tue, Thu, Sat, & Sun

Please note that this is the letter of the tradition and certain allowances should be made for the occasional suspension of the severity of the fast, not as an excuse for laxity or indulgence, but when love requires. When in doubt, talk to your priest!

Additionally, our practice has been, with the encouragement of the Archdiocese, to observe the one American holiday that still is God-centered, Thanksgiving Day. 


When Not to Fast

Do not fast:

  • between December 25 and January 5 (even on Wednesdays and Fridays);
  • if you are pregnant or nursing a newborn;
  • during serious illness;
  • without prayer;
  • without alms-giving;
  • according to your own will without guidance from your spiritual father.

Other Resources

Recommended readings, prayers, articles, practical suggestions, etc for individuals and families can be found on, including The Pre-Nativity Season and Nativity Resources for Orthodox Christian Families.

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