Fasting and abstinence of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria

The Copts (Christians of Egypt), who belong mostly to the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, observe fasting periods according to the Coptic calendar. These fasting periods are exceeded by no other Christian community except the Orthodox Tewahedo. Out of the 365 days of the year, Copts often fast between 180 to 210 days.


There are spiritual, symbolic, and even practical reasons for fasting. In the fall from Paradise man became possessed of a carnal nature; he adopted carnal practices. Through fasting, the Orthodox Christians attempt to recapture Paradise in their lives by refraining from those carnal practices. In general, Coptic fasting means adhering to a vegan diet, thus abstaining from meat, fish, eggs, dairy, and other animal products.[1]

There are those who see fasting as an exercise in self-denial and Christian obedience that serves to rid the believer of his or her passions (what most modern people would call "addictions"). These often low-intensity and hard-to-detect addictions to food, television or other entertainments, sex, or any kind of self-absorbed pleasure-seeking are seen as some of the most significant obstacles for man seeking closeness to God. Through struggling with fasting, the believer comes face to face with the reality of his condition - the starting point for genuine repentance.

All Coptic Christians are expected to fast following a prescribed set of guidelines. Dispensation is however granted under special circumstances, such as pregnancy and sickness.

The time and type of fast is generally uniform in Oriental Orthodoxy. The times of fasting are dependent on the ecclesiastical calendar. In the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, this calendar is the Coptic calendar, which corresponds largely to the calendars of other Christian denominations. Observance of the fasting periods is very strict in the Coptic community.