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In the Roman Rite (pre-1970 form), and in similar Anglican and Lutheran uses, a pre-Lenten season lasts from Septuagesima Sunday until Shrove Tuesday and has thus also been known as Shrovetide. The form of the Roman Rite that includes this special period of 17 days refers to it as the season of Septuagesima. The liturgy of the period is characterized by violet vestments (except on feasts), the omission of the Alleluia before the Gospel, and a more penitential mood. Fasting does not commence until the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday.
The earliest the Pre-Lenten season can begin is January 18 and the latest it can end is March 9.
It is absent in more recent forms of all these traditions.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite, the pre-Lenten season lasts three weeks, beginning on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee and continuing through the Sunday of Forgiveness (the day before the beginning of Great Lent). Since the liturgical day begins at sunset, and Great Lent begins on a Monday, the point at which Great Lent begins is at Vespers on the night of the Sunday of Forgiveness, with a "Ceremony of Mutual Forgiveness" (in some monasteries, this ceremony is performed at Compline instead of Vespers). Thus begins the first day of the Great Fast, which is known as Clean Monday. The weeks of pre-Lent and Great Lent are anticipatory by nature; they begin on Monday and end on Sunday, each week being named for the theme of the upcoming Sunday. The hymns used during the Pre-Lenten and Lenten seasons are taken from a book called the Triodion.
The weeks of the Pre-Lenten Season break are:
- Zacchaeus Sunday (Slavic tradition) is sometimes regarded as a pre-Lenten Sunday because of its place in the Slavic lectionary. In that tradition, it is the 11th Sunday before Pascha (Easter). There are no hymns proper to this Sunday, however; its only distinguishing feature is the reading of the Gospel concerning Zacchaeus ( ). This lectionary reading is sometimes also appointed on the same Sunday in the Byzantine ("Greek") lectionary, as well. The week following this Sunday is a normal, non-Lenten time, since it falls outside the Triodion.
- The Publican and the Pharisee: 10th Sunday before Pascha (70 days). The week following this Sunday is a fast-free week, lest the faithful be tempted, like the Pharisee to boast about fasting.
- The Prodigal Son: 9th Sunday before Pascha (63 days). The week following this Sunday is the last during which the laity may eat meat or meat products.
- The Last Judgment or Meat-Fare Sunday (the last day meat may be eaten): 8th Sunday before Pascha (56 days). The week following this Sunday is called Cheese-Fare Week and is a fast-free week, with the exception that meat and meat products are forbidden.
- Sunday of Forgiveness or Cheese-Fare Sunday: 7th Sunday before Pascha (49 days). This Sunday is the last day dairy products may be consumed. Throughout Great Lent, fish, wine, and olive oil will be allowed only on certain days.