The cravings have gotten rough, but you’ve stuck with it. It’s not much longer until Easter Sunday 2018, and all those Lenten restrictions haven’t been too bad so far. But, you can’t help but wonder as you head into another meatless meal, why no meat during Lent on Fridays? You follow it, sure, but you can’t help but speculate.
Wait, no meat during Lent on Fridays?
Maybe you thought Lent was just giving up one food like chocolate or, we hope not, coffee. But there are more rules surrounding food you eat during Lent than that, it’s just that it’s becoming less common to follow the fasting and abstinence rules associated with the time leading up to Easter.
These fasting and abstinence practices are part of the Catholic celebration of Eastertide, with churchgoers foregoing meat and all foods containing “flesh meat” products on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and every Friday during Lent. Fish is not included in this and is allowed on Fridays.
But why no meat during Lent on Fridays?
It goes back to the ancient traditions of the religion. “From the first century, the day of the crucifixion has been traditionally observed as a day of abstaining from flesh meat (‘black fast’) to honor Christ who sacrificed his flesh on a Friday,” The Catholic Source Book explains.
The modern-day traditions of the Catholic church are actually pretty lenient considering what used to be asked of members. Until 1966, churchgoers were supposed to abstain from “flesh meat” on every Friday — all year long. It was church law, the Catholic Hotdish explains. A new law was officially put in place in 1983 that demanded abstinence on those two big holidays: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops later extended this to include all the Fridays during Lent.
Meat during Lent: What counts and what doesn’t?
“Flesh meat” might not ring a bell to you, but it’s basically anything that comes from the land. Poultry like chicken and turkey count, are therefore are not allowed during Lent on Fridays. Add to that list any red meat, from beef to lamb to venison. No pork either; sorry, sausage lovers.
But what about products that come from these animals, like butter, cheese and eggs? All of those are allowed because though they’re from “flesh meat” animals, they’re non-flesh products.
So why no meat during Lent on Fridays, and why is fish the exception? It seems to trace back to the Latin word “caro,” which was understood to mean “flesh meat” and not fish. You can see that implied definition in our own language: If you’re a pescetarian (someone who only eats fish for meat), you’re something different from a carnivore.
But none of this applies to children under the age of 14 who are exempt from the fasting and abstinence rules. But maybe don’t tell them that, otherwise your kids might end up eating cheeseburgers in front of you on Fridays during Lent, and no one needs fasting to be any harder than it already is.