Eastern Slovakia
Slovak and Carpatho-Rusyn Genealogical Research

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Christmas in Slovakia

Philipovka or Philip's Fast

On November 15, according to present regulations, begins the period of fasting in preparation for the feast of the Birth of our Lord. This penitential season is called in tradition the Fast of Philip (Philipovka) because it begins on November 15, the day after the feast of St. Philip and forty days before Christmas.

During this fast no particular penitential acts are required by law, but the faithful are encouraged to keep this season holy. By tradition Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are especially observed by abstinence from certain foods.

Even if we find it very difficult to keep such an abstinence, the spirit of the fast is recommended, that we abstain from foods that are extremely pleasing to the taste and from excessive eating. A period of penance, of course, means more than just abstaining from food. More time should be allowed for prayer, attending pre-Christmas services, and for acts of charity to others.

The "Christmas Spririt" will have a special meaning for believers, especially if our celebration of Christ's birth marks a time of growth in spirit, a permanent improvement in our life of faith and love for others.

This holy season, moreover, should be a time of kindness and joy, marked by abstinence from hurting others, and from deceit, gossip, anger, quarrelling, and all other vices which arise from the tongue.

It was also the custom for the faithful to receive the Sacrament of penance during this fast to purify themselves for the great feast.

It may seem very difficult to keep this fast today. The pre-Christmas time is a period of merriment and parties. Yet the Church points to a deeper spiritual meaning of Christmas, that on this day God the Son and Word emptied Himself to take flesh as a man. As St. Paul said, "he made himself poor though he was rich, so that you might become rich by his poverty." (1 Corinthians 8,9).

This penitential season, then, is an invitation by the Church to humble ourselves in some small way, in imitation of Christ so that we might receive on Christmas day God's greatest gift - His only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.


From the Byzantine Catholic World

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