Observing Advent & the Nativity Fast in the Orthodox Church

Observing Advent & the Nativity Fast in the Orthodox Church

The Nativity—or St. Philip’s—Fast begins on November 15 NS/28 OS every year. There are so many beautiful traditions in the Church and activities we can add to make the time edifying for our families. The feast days of some beloved saints are celebrated during the fast, which adds wonderful opportunities to make it extra special. This is also a great time to reach out to others who may not have loved ones around with whom to celebrate. Below are some ideas to add richness to your Nativity season, and our curated Pinterest boards also include books, articles, activities, and images on these topics.

Traditions & Saints

St. Nicholas of Myra (December 6/19)

Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple (November 21/December 4)


St. Lucia (December 13/26)

St. Herman of Alaska (December 13/26)

Other Saints




Family Movies


  • Nativity Fast Charity Box
  • Lenten Almsgiving: A Family Project from Illumination Learning
  • Orthodox Stewardship: Responding to God’s Gifts from the OCA
  • Ask your priest for specific needs in your parish community
  • Collect blankets and coats for those in need
  • Offer to take people to liturgy who may not have transportation
  • Invite people who will be alone to your family's Nativity celebration
  • Collect coins as a family throughout the fast as a donation at Nativity Liturgy or to a special organization
  • Create a special intercession list for those who need your prayers during this time
  • Visit a local nursing home to bring Christmas cheer
  • Volunteer to hold babies in the NICU
  • Clean out your closet and donate gently used clothing (especially for women and children)
  • Create “blessing bags” of toiletries and snacks to keep in your car and give when an opportunity arises
  • Encourage children to sit with a lonely child at lunch or invite them to play at recess


Check out our Fasting Resources page to help plan your meals for the Nativity Fast! If you find fasting difficult with a family, read “Living Our Faith: ‘It's Too Hard for My Kids’” from Illumination Learning for encouragement.

It is a custom in the Slavic churches to break the strict fast on Christmas Eve with a fasting Holy Supper in preparation for Nativity.

Click here for Nativity & the Twelve Days of Christmas resources.

Pin for Later

pine bough sitting on bed with book and mug, titled "Orthodox Resources for Advent & the Nativity Fast"

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