World Religions

Fasting in Ethiopia

Misir Wat, a traditional Ethiopian dish for fasting

Fazal Ahmad, UK
Editor, World Religions Section

On a recent visit to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, I was surprised to see that the local Orthodox Christians fast much longer and more diligently than the normal Lent period in Europe.

Christians here started their Abiyi Ts’om (similar to Saum in Arabic) fasting this year on 28 February, and will fast for a total of 55 days until Easter, which is due to be celebrated on 24 April 2022. By contrast, Catholic Christians observe 40 days of Lent, but often the observance does not appear to be as stringent (especially in Europe) as that being followed by the Orthodox community in Ethiopia.

Many people I met have been observing the fast, which has several dimensions. Firstly, throughout the 55 days, they do not consume any meat, eggs or dairy products. Many restaurants, cafes, bakeries and other food outlets (all of the ones that I visited) have clearly marked ‘fasting’ items which comply with the requirement to avoid meat and dairy.

A fasting menu in Ethiopia

For observant Christians, not only do they avoid these products for almost two months, they also fast every morning, go to Church every day for prayers from 12pm – 3pm, and will have a meal after those prayers.

Fasting cakes for sale in Addis Abeba

Many Christians in Addis Ababa (and I am sure elsewhere in the country) are observing the fast, and also expressed their delight that this year, a lot of their fast will coincide with Ramadan, which the Muslims of the country (over 30 million people) will be observing, particularly in the Somali, Afar, Dire Dawa and Harar regions.

About the Author: Fazal Ahmad is the Editor for the World Religions section of The Review of Religions. He also serves as the Global Operations Director with Humanity First, and is responsible for poverty alleviation projects in 54 countries, mainly in Africa, South Asia and Central America.