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In Christianity, the Nativity Fast—or Fast of the Prophets in Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church—is a period of abstinence and penance practiced by the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church and Catholic Church in preparation for the Nativity of Jesus on December 25. Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Churches commence the season on November 24 and end the season on the day of Ethiopian Christmas, which falls on January 7. The corresponding Western season of preparation for Christmas, which also has been called the Nativity Fast and St. Martin's Lent, has taken the name of Advent. The Eastern fast runs for 40 days instead of four (in the Roman Rite) or six weeks (Ambrosian Rite) and thematically focuses on proclamation and glorification of the Incarnation of God, whereas the Western Advent focuses on three comings (or advents) of Jesus Christ: his birth, reception of his grace by the faithful, and his Second Coming or Parousia.
The Byzantine fast is observed from November 15 to December 24, inclusively. These dates apply to the Eastern Catholic Churches, and Eastern Orthodox churches which use the Revised Julian calendar, which currently matches the Gregorian calendar. For those Eastern Orthodox churches which still follow the Julian calendar—the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Russian Orthodox Church, the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Georgian Orthodox Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Macedonian Orthodox Church, Mount Athos, the Portuguese Orthodox Church, and all Old Calendarists, as well as some parishes of the Romanian Orthodox Church, of the Polish Orthodox Church, and of the Orthodox Church of America—the Winter Lent does not begin until November 28 (Gregorian) which coincides with November 15 on the Julian calendar. The Ancient Church of the East fasts dawn til dusk from December 1 until December 25 on the Gregorian calendar.
Sometimes the fast is called Philip's Fast (or the Philippian Fast), as it traditionally begins on the day following the Feast of St. Philip the Apostle (November 14). Some churches, such as the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, have abbreviated the fast to start on December 10, following the Feast of the Conception by Saint Anne of the Most Holy Theotokos.
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