As many will know the big fasting season in Ethiopia starts soon after Timkat – this year on Monday the 12th February. Fasting appears in many religions around the world, but in the west its has lost its rigour for most people. However in the Ethiopian Orthodox church there are many fasting days through the year. In fact a strict observer of all fasts would be vegan for half the year. The longest of the fasts is the lenten fast which leads up to Easter. It is variously known as Hudadi or the Abiy Tsom and the majority of followers of the Orthodox church fast these 55 days every year.


Why is it 55 days when in the western church it is 40 days? The specific reasons for the addition of 2 weeks to the 40 day fast is something of which most people are unaware.


The first week of Hudadi is known as the fast of Eraclius, a Byzantine Emperor who lived in 614 A.D. During his reign the Persians invaded Jerusalem and took the Cross of the Lord. Eraclius undertook an expedition to Persia; defeated the Persian army and took the Cross back to Jerusalem. The Christians in Jerusalem who were very happy because of Eraclius’s victory and the return of the Cross, dedicated the first week before Lent to be the fast of Eraclius and included it in their canons. The last week of Lent: Passion Week during remembers the Apostles who fasted in commemoration of Christ’s Passion. S~o one week at the start and one week at the end!


To the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Hudadi is a period of fasting when the faithful undergo a rigorous schedule of prayers and penitence. This fast is observed with greater rigour than any other fast and it is a test of one’s spiritual strength and resolve. Properly observed it is believed to nullify sins committed during the rest of the year.


The fast if strictly followed :


  • is applicable to all persons older than 13 years of age


  • involves abstinence from: meat, dairy products and eggs (and many will abstain from fish too)


  • instead, cereals and vegetables will be consumed


  • only one meal (vegan) a day is eaten, taken in the evening or after 3:00pm (when church services end). Before that no food, drink nor even water is to be consumed


  • starting on Good Friday to Easter Sunday (i.e. late on Saturday night), there is total abstinence nothing taken maybe eaten nordrunk.


  • on other Saturdays and Sundays during Lent, eating breakfast is allowed.


  • Daily Services are conducted in all churches from morning to 2:45pm.


  • Priests regularly attend night services starting at midnight up to 7am.


For the visitor to Ethiopia a wonderful array of fasting foods is served up on enjara – just ask for: – ‘ye tsom bayenetu’. You may also get a wonderful fried fish (probably Tilapia) ‘asseh‘. Enjoy!


Tesfa Tours will happily recommend good fasting restaurants in Addis, and take you there as part of a city tour.


For more information contact , tel. 011 124 5178