The establishment of the Nativity Fast, as well as other multi-day fasts relates to the ancient times of Christianity. But already from IV century St. Ambrosius of Milan, Philistrius and St. Augustin mention the Nativity Fast in their works. In V century Leo the Great wrote about the Nativity Fast . At first the Nativity Fast lasted seven days for Christians, and for the others - a bit longer. At the Council of 1166 when was held in the time of the Constantinople Patriarch Luke and Byzantine emperor Manuel a forty-day fast was ordered to be observed by all Christians before the great feast of the Nativity of Christ.
The life of each Orthodox Christian should be ascetic. Without our spiritual and physical effort, aided by the grace of the God, it is impossible to free of a power of sin and to unite with the Lord. That is why Fasting in the Orthodox spirituality holds a very important place and without it there is no progress in any Christian virtue. In the distant past, the concept of fasting included the complete abstinence from any food, and later took on the meaning of abstaining from one type of food called "fatty", ie. the one that contains animal fat, but at certain times and food that is prepared on vegetable fat. A special kind of fasting is "dry eating" which means using of non-cooked, dry fasting food.
St. Stephen of Decani was born as the eldest son of the saintly King Milutin (Stephen Uros II) and his wife Elizabeth, a Hungarian princess. Living at the court of his parents, the heir-apparent received a good education, his mind exercised by study of the language and writings of his people, and his heart strengthened by study of the Holy Scripture and the teachings of the Orthodox Faith.
The good fruit of his upbringing proved itself when King Milutin was forced to send him as hostage to the Tartar chief Nogyi. In spite of the potential dangers, Stephen was obedient to his father's will and did not resist, trusting his life to the Lord. And his hope was not in vain. He eventually made friends with one of the Tartar nobles, who succeeded in assisting his safe return home.
The Holy Wonderworkers and Unmercenary Physicians Cosmas and Damian were born somewhere in Asia Minor by their pagan father and Christian mother. When their father died, while they were still quite small children, their mother St. Theodata raised them in Christian piety. Trained and skilled as physicians, they received from the Holy Spirit the gift of healing people's illnesses of body and soul by the power of prayer. With fervent love for both God and neighbor, they never took payment for their services, so that is why they were called the Unmercenary Physicians. They strictly observed the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, "Freely have you received, freely give." (Mt. 10:8).
Saint Petka or Parascheva of the Balkans (Greek Παρασκευή - Friday) was an ascetic female saint of the 11th century. She was born in the town of Epibatos (today Selimpaşa) on the shore of the Sea of Marmara between Silivri and Constantinople in Thrace in the half of X century. She was of Serbian origin, from a wealthy and pious family. She had a brother, whose name was Euthymios, and who took monastic vows when he was very young, and later he was elected for Bishop of Madyta (989-996).