Greek Orthodox Easter falls on Sunday 24th April this year, but the celebrations begin many days before with Carnival season and other traditions. One really sweet custom is that of Kyra Sarakosti, or Lady Lent, which marks the beginning of Great Lent, 40 days of fasting prior to Easter.
It counts the weeks from Clean Monday until Pascha begins. The word ‘sarakosti’ means ‘40 days’. In most parts of Greece, Lady Lent is simply a paper drawing, but she can also be made from clay, cloth or some sort of fabric filled with feathers, or even baked from salt or cookie dough.
The lady has her arms crossed and is praying. She may have her ears covered by a scarf or have no ears at all, which represents her unwillingness to listen to any gossip. She also (slightly disturbingly) has no mouth to symbolise the fact that she is fasting.
The most notable characteristic of Lady Lent are her seven legs, used as a type of calendar to represent the seven weeks of Great Lent and the countdown to Easter.
Each leg represents one week of Lent and on every Saturday after Clean Monday, one of the legs is broken off. The general custom is that the last leg is hidden inside the Easter bread or bowls of fruit and figs. The lucky person to find the leg is considered blessed for the year.
How will you be making your Lady Lent this year?