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MOSCOW, February 27. /TASS/. Orthodox Christians in Russia and other countries around the world begin observing Great Lent on Monday, February 27, in preparation for Easter, the most sacred and holy day of the Orthodox Church's ecclesiastical calendar, which will be celebrated this year on April 16.
The last day prior to Great Lent is Forgiveness Sunday, which rounds up the week of Maslenitsa or Pancake festival celebrations, before the longest and strictest fasting season of the year in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
The Eastern Orthodox Lent always begins on Monday, which is designated as "Clean Monday", the day when Orthodox faithful begin a spiritual and moral purification through fasting, prayer, meditations, repentance, attending Lenten religious services and partaking of the Sacraments of Confession and Communion.
Products of animal origin, bad habits are prohibited during that time and believers are encouraged to work on uplifting and strengthening their character, visit churches more often, take communion.
The Orthodox Church celebrates Easter for 40 days, although most of them are not as festive as the first week.