Eight Days Lent in the Eastern Christianity
Christianity is known for its Lent season of forty days. Christmas preparation is observed for 25 days as the season of Advent. But the eight days Lent observed in Christianity is not known to many.
The eight days Lent
Observation of “eight days Lent” has been a tradition for centuries in the Churches in the east. In the southern state of India, Kerala, it is celebrated with great devotion between September 1st and 8th of every year. Many Churches in the east, including Syro Malabar Roman Catholic Church, Syro-Malankara Roman Catholic Church and Churches of the Syrian Orthodox in Kerala observe these eight days with traditional rituals and prayers. The eight days Lent honors the birthday of St. Mary, mother of Jesus. September 8 is imagined as birthday of St. Mary which has been a belief traditionally. Eight days coming before her birthday are a season of a loving preparation for her birthday.
Eight days in honor of St. Mary birthday
St. Mary birthday on September 8
St. Mary is venerated as the greatest saint by Christians since she brought Christ to this world. Although the birthday of Mary is an old feast in the Church with its origin in Palestine, it came to be celebrated in the Churches on September 8 only since the seventh century. It was brought to Rome by the Eastern monks. Since then, it gradually spread in varied ways to the other parts of the World in the centuries that followed. Eight days Lent is one of those traditional customs that is observed in the eastern Churches, especially in the Syrian Churches.
Eight days Lent
Most of the Christians in Kerala fast and pray during these days from September 1 to 8.
In Kerala the eight days Lent is rigorously observed from first to eighth day of September with charitable activities and special prayers to honor St. Mary. Praying Rosary in groups is an important custom these days.
Eight days Lent Feast in Syrian Orthodox Churches in Kerala
Although the eight days Lent is celebrated in many parts of Kerala, Manarcad St. Mary's cathedral, located near Kottayam, Kerala, is known as the most famous one or this “Eight days Lent Feast”(Ettunombu Perunnal). This cathedral church belongs to the Church of the Syrian Orthodox in Kerala. During the Lent days, the Syrian Christian ladies gather there by thousands and observe this Lent in all devotion for seven days. Nowadays people of all religions gather there with various obligations from Mother Mary. People believe that many miracles occur through the mediation of Mother Mary. People offer decorated ornamental umbrellas(Muthukkuda) as their offering to Mother.
On the last three days of the eight day celebrations, processions are held with golden crosses and ornamental umbrellas, accompanied by and visited by thousands of devotees. It is really a feast to the heart and eyes.
A historical legend of the feast
Tipu Sultan, famous Muslim king of Mysore, invaded Kerala and reached Alwaye in 1789. He was against Christianity, since he was deadly against the English colonization in India. To show his hatred, the infamous Tipu let loose atrocities on Christian women. The dismayed hapless women sought to fasting and prayer on the other bank of the river near Alwaye for 8 days, seeking the intercession of St. Mary. They were relieved when Tipu was forced to retreat and go back at the attack on Tipu’s capital by Governor General Lord Mornington. It is said that on this retreat Tipu lost everything and died prematurely. The women of Kerala celebrate this as a grateful commemoration.