Students observe Orthodox Easter fast

Yabi Bereket, Internationals Editor

The usual smells of meats and spices blending together in an Ethiopian household will be put on pause as the annual Oriental Orthodox fasting begins.
Every year, the Orthodox fast leading up to Easter lasts a total of 55 days, and it is the most important fast of this faith.
It is filled with spiritual hymns and more church attendance. Yet, for senior Hemen Besufekad, her yearly challenge, alongside trying to practice the faith as much as necessary, is practicing it while attending school.
This year, the Oriental Orthodox fast began on March 4 and is set to end on April 28, adding to a total of 55 days. This is 15 days more than the Catholic fast called Lent.
Besufekad is one of the few within her friend group who is participating in this fast, which consists of living a vegan lifestyle the whole way through.
This becomes more of a challenge as days go by in school when she is feeling famished but isn’t able to eat fulfilling foods which some people may have on hand.
“I do get hungry more often while I’m in school, but I have to remind myself why I’m doing this in the first place,” Besufekad said.
Being surrounded by people during the lunch period who continue to enjoy their cosmic brownies and crunchy Cheetos taunt Besufekad and continue to tempt her, yet it is no match for her strong faith and willpower.
“I chose to do this fast because I know it is good for me. I don’t expect my friends to be phased by my new change in diet, but yeah it gets hard sometimes,” Besufekad said.
Despite having a large majority of her friends who do not observe the fast, she is surrounded by a vast Habesha (Ethiopian and Eritrean) community in the area, and some in school, who help to keep the faith strong.
“It’s like I have a personal support group,” Besufekad said.
“Within my group of Habesha friends, we all share the struggle together which makes it more bearable,” Besufekad said.
This fast, referred to as the ‘Abiy Tsome’ (Fast of the Father) is the only fast where people who follow the Oriental Orthodox faith are required to participate if in good health.
It is broken down week by week, and each week focuses on an aspect of Christ.
The first week is called Zewerede, meaning “He came down”.
From this, the next upcoming weeks are Qidist, Mikurab, Metsagu’e, Debrezeit, Gebir’her, Niqodimos, Hosa’ena, then Tinsae which is Easter. Each week carries a certain significance to it and requires the reading of certain Bible verses as well.
Besides simply being vegan, there are other options of how one may fast for this season. Some may choose to wait until 12 p.m. to have their first meal, while others wait until 3 p.m.
“I was raised by eating vegan meals when having to fast, so that’s what I choose to stick with during the season,” senior Ephrata Yohannes said.
Every person who follows this faith is allowed to choose on their own basis if this is a journey which they want to take, but some choose otherwise.
“I do this fast because it is a way for me to serve penance for whatever sin I have committed, and is an opportunity for me to reconnect with God,” Yohannes said.
It is expected to also abstain from worldly things like listening to music, television, and things of that nature.
Despite the many hardships of this two month long fast, it is the feeling of community which strengthens those fasting to stick together.