SUNDAY, MARCH 6: Millions of Eastern Christians are counting down the days until the commencement of Great Lent—and today, Orthodox Christians mark the last Sunday before Lent, also known as Cheesefare Sunday and the Sunday of Forgiveness.
Orthodox Christians abstain from both meat and dairy during the entire course of Lent, but they ease in by taking one step at a time: Last week, on Meatfare Sunday, the faithful swore off meat until Pascha (with the exception of a few intervening feast days); and today, they will take their last bites of dairy until Pascha. Try some vegan (meat- and dairy-free) recipes, courtesy of 101 Cookbooks.
Today’s theme focuses on the exile of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, and our subsequent need for forgiveness from God. (Read more at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.) Orthodox Christians try to enter what they call Great Lent with humility and repentance. Eastern Christians also forgive one another during this period—in their hope of re-entry into Paradise that was made possible by Christ’s rising (Pascha/Easter). (OrthodoxWiki has details.)
In Russia, a week-long “pancake festival” for Lent began at the end of February and came to a peak this weekend; this festival, known as Maslenitsa, is based on the traditional emptying of cupboards of fats and sugars before Lent. (The Moscow News has an article.) More than 300,000 people were expected at this year’s events, which included extensive competitions, high-tech attractions and much more.