Author(s): Tesfai Gabre-Kidan, MD

Observed by followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. It lasts 55 days culminating on Easter and the fast involves:

  • it is applicable to all persons older than 13 years of age
  • involves total abstention from: meat, dairy products and eggs
  • instead, cereals and vegetables will be consumed
  • only one meal a day, taken in the evening or after 3:00pm
  • starting on Good Friday to Easter Sunday, there is total abstention from everything taken orally. Nothing is to be consumed.
  • on other Saturdays and Sundays during Lent, eating breakfast is allowed.
Injera, fasting food, Ethiopia
Ethiopian Fasting Food. Photo by Rod Waddington (cc license).

Medical Implications

ethiopian priest
  • doses of medications scheduled to be taken multiple times a day will either be missed or worse, some will try to make up for missed doses by doubling or tripling dosages.
  • illnesses dependent on regular meal intake for their control, will be difficult to control, i.e., DM, PUD.
  • diabetics and most patients with chronic systemic illnesses will be at increased risk the last 3 days of the fasting season, Good Friday to Easter Sunday.
  • On the day just before fasting starts, people least all day; this requires clear advice to patients in anticipation of this feast day to adjust insulin appropirately.

Health care providers should be vigilant and question their patients whether they intend to observe regular or modified fasting. When in the judgment of a provider, patient is considered at risk, provider can remind the patient of the exemptions stipulated by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (the sick, travelers and the weak may be exempt from or reduce the fasting periods) and if necessary refer the patient to the Head Priest for counseling.

For additional information about the Orthodox calendar holy days and dates, see The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Faith and Order website, related information on Wikipedia or our calendar event page.