Lent: Why don't some people eat meat at this time?

Even if you are not a devout Christian, you have certainly heard of Lent and the custom of not eating meat during this time. However, do you know the origin of this penance interval, what it represents, and why some people stop being “carnivorous” at this time of year?

As its name Lent suggests, it is a forty- day period that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter, discounting Sundays. This interval serves to prepare Christians to celebrate Christ's resurrection, and it is marked by penances which, in addition to the famous abstention from the flesh, include sacrifices such as fasting, charity, mortifications - physical or mental punishment for love. to God - and many prayers.


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Disregarding the probable pagan origins of custom, there are historical records that refer to the practice of penance as a preparation for Easter since the dawn of Christianity. However, the time periods ranged from hours to days, going through whole weeks and even longer intervals, and each believer followed the ritual he thought best. A mess!

It was not until the 4th century that the 40-day period was established, and the duration is based on several biblical references related to the number. Among the most significant is the length of time Jesus remained in the wilderness, the length of the flood that flooded the earth - remember Noah? - how many days did the journey of the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land take, the period Moses spent on Mount Sinai, etc.


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The most common today is for the most devout Christians to make some fasts, promises and stop eating meat during Lent. But in the past things were very different and restrictive. In the 5th century, for example, there were those who completely scratched off the meat of any animal, while others made exceptions for fish and, in some cases, for birds as well.

In addition, there were those who avoided hard-shelled fruits and eggs, while the most earnest devotees contemplated the sacrifice of fasting for a full 24 hours or more during Holy Week, and even those who restricted meals to just one or two a week during that week. period.

However, the "rule" itself was that people eat only one meal a day - in the evening - and avoid meat and wine altogether; Dairy consumption was only allowed in exchange for charitable practice. Today, in addition to the Catholic Church, the Anglican, the Orthodox, the Lutheran, and certain evangelicals follow tradition, and the penances have become much milder than before.

Modernized Lent

Noah's Sacrifice Image source: Reproduction / Wikipedia

Over the centuries, some modifications have been allowed and respect for Lent has become a little easier. The period of penance still begins on Ash Wednesday and goes on for 40 days excluding Sundays, and the most devoted only eat one meal a day - and no meat on the menu - on Ash Wednesday and Friday. Good Friday.

Meat is also forbidden on other Fridays of Lent, and the faithful are encouraged to make some sacrifice - such as giving up chocolate or alcohol, for example - during that time. However, "technically", such a sacrifice is suspended on St. Joseph's Day (March 19) and the Annunciation Day (March 25), when the penitents are released to forget their promises.

What about Sundays?

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As you know, Jesus' disciples were Jewish and therefore kept the Sabbath - or Sabbath - as a day of rest and worship. This is because, according to Genesis, after creating the world, God rested on the seventh day, designating the Sabbath as a day of rest.

However, as Christ rose on a Sunday, Christians transferred the day of rest, and every Sunday came to be considered days to celebrate his resurrection. Therefore, as with the Jews and the Sabbath, Christians are forbidden from fasting or doing penance on Sundays, so these days of the week are outside the "calendar" of Lent.

More curiosities

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  • The term “Lent” has its origin in the Latin expression quadragesima dies, which means fortieth day;
  • Officially, fasting as a form of sacrifice on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday must be performed by baptized Christians;
  • The liturgical color associated with Lent is purple, which symbolizes mourning, penance, and sacrifice. On the fourth Sunday of the period - “Alegria” - the color pink is used and, on Palm Sunday, the tone adopted is red, to symbolize the Passion of Christ;
  • The gray cross that is applied to the forehead of the faithful at the beginning of Lent recreates an ancient Middle Eastern ritual in which ashes were thrown over their heads to symbolize repentance before God.


And do you, the reader, usually follow the custom of fasting and not eating meat during Lent? And as for the promises, have you ever done anything very hard to keep or do you know someone who decided to give up something absurd during this time? Be sure to share with us in the comments.

* Originally posted on 07/03/2014.