“During the Great Fast, we eat only once at about the ninth hour (i.e. 3:00 P.M.) taking only dry food and vegetables without oil; we do not drink wine, except on Saturday and Sunday, when we are also permitted to eat fish.” St. Theodore Studites, founder of Stoudios monastery (d. 826), Chron. Catech. 9.
“During the 40days Lent we can find several customs of social character, such as the offering special foods to neighbors and children. For istance at Sinopi, a so called ‘sour food’ is offered to neighbors; chick- peas, beans, chestnuts, raisins, bulgur and thick molasses, are boiled together for a long and then they are fried with onions in some oil.”
Megas G., Greek feasts and customs of popular cult, p. 131 (Athens 1988).
We cannot determine when and where this fast was established. We only know that untill the third century A.D., the Easter Fast was extended to the week known to us as the Holy Week. It was the fifth Canon of the Council of Nicaea (325) which mentioned, for first time, the Forty Days Fast. Thirty five years later, the Synod of Laodicaea imposed the obligation of fasting for forty days before Easter.
The Easter Fast, which is also called Great Fast, follows the Carnival and ends on the Friday before the Saturday of Lazarus. According to the Byzantine tradition, Holy Week is considered as more important and it is not included in the Forty-Days Fast. During Lent corporal and spiritual fast are necessary for the spiritual renewal. In addition to cleansing the body and spirit, Easter Lent is also the traditional time for spring house cleaning and freshening.
Although the Lenten foods are restricted, because the fasting diet was developed mostly under influence of monastic discipline, they are quite appetizing. Even on Clean Monday when the most food is uncooked and meant to be plain, the variety is remarkable. Wet raw broad-beans, beans ala Piaz, lupines, pickled bulbs, very tender baby and young antichokes, a lot of fresh onions and garlic, many lettuces, eaten without oil and salt, tomatoes sprinkled with salt and oregano, olives, pickled vegetables, snails, shrimps, oysters, squids, octopuses, carp roe spread, dates.
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