A Lenten Tradition: Fish on Fridays

Ever wonder why fish specials start popping up on most restaurant menus for two months in the spring?  Or why your dining hall starts serving fish options at dinner in March and April? Have you noticed some of your friends don’t eat meat on Friday during this time too? This is because the 40 days leading up to Easter, typically during March and April, is called Lent in the Catholic Church. Giving up meat and eating fish on Fridays in Lent is a Catholic tradition that dates back to the early days of the Church.

For years, many Catholics believed a myth that a medieval pope made a secret pact with fishermen. By discouraging meat on Fridays, it was thought that the pope influenced Catholics to switch to eating fish instead of meat to give the fishing industry an economic boost. In reality, the history of eating fish on Fridays has to do with abstaining from eating the flesh of warm-blooded animals, or creatures that have “sacrificed” their lives in the process of becoming our food. This led Catholics to consider coldblooded fish as the main course in their Friday suppers during the Lenten season, a period of 40 days marked by prayer, reflection, and the giving up of “vices” in preparation for Easter. 

The type of fish that Catholics enjoy on Fridays in Lent has changed over the years from herring to cod to the many varieties of fish available today. In fact, some Catholic families now choose to go completely vegetarian and eat a pizza or pasta dinner to kick off the weekend instead of fish. Do you or any of your friends forgo meat on Fridays in Lent? Or does your campus offer more fish options during the Lenten season? Let us know by commenting below!

Lizzie McManus is a first year graduate student at Drexel University pursuing her M.S. in Human Nutrition. She plans to become a registered dietitian specializing in plant-based and whole foods nutrition.

Photo Credit: FBM

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