Have you ever wondered why on Christmas Eve no meat is eaten? To some, it’s a mystery, but to others, it has a significant meaning. In this post, we’ll go over the reason you’ll find many abstaining from meat on Christmas Eve, as well as whether or not it is a practice that Catholics are obligated to observe.
Table of Contents
- Why Can’t Catholics Have Meat on Christmas Eve?
- Is Avoiding Meat on Christmas Eve in the Bible?
- Is It Required to Abstain From Meat on Christmas Eve?
- Do Italians Eat Meat on Christmas Eve?
- Do Polish People Not Eat Meat on Christmas Eve?
- Christmas Eve With No Meat For Every Catholic?
Why Can’t Catholics Have Meat on Christmas Eve?
Not consuming meat on Christmas has, for Catholics, become a long-standing tradition. As with many rituals associated with Catholicism, the obligation to this task is not mandated in the Bible. Rather, it is instituted by the Catholic church as an act of penance.
High-ranking holidays, such as Christmas, Easter, All Saints Day, and others are treated with utmost importance by those practicing the Catholic faith. As such, there can be fasting rituals that occur around these “solemnities” to which Catholics often abide.
Is Avoiding Meat on Christmas Eve in the Bible?
No. The Bible does not mandate when someone should or should not fast in relation to a certain holy day as it pertains to Christians. It is for this very reason that it is important to understand the notion that not every Christian will abide by these rules.
Protestant Christians, those who historically broke off from the Catholic church, do not hold to the practices of not eating meat on Christmas Eve. In fact, many are likely to never have heard of such a thing!
So, why then do you usually see Catholics and other families wishing to abide by these traditions of eating only fish on Christmas Eve? Because it is an act of penance, or self-inflicted anguish. It is in preparation for the festive meal that is likely to be on the table on Christmas day. Thus, you’ll find the Christmas Eve table lined with plenty of recipes involving fish, cheese, and other goodies. However, eating meat of pork, beef, or chicken would not be permitted for dinner for those observing these customs.
Is It Required to Abstain From Meat on Christmas Eve?
Yes and no.
As we’ve mentioned, none of these requirements of the Canon Law are required for all Christians, particularly those who do not identify as Catholic.
So, what about those within the Catholic church? Abstinence from meat on the Christmas Eve table is actually totally optional.
Surprised? Don’t be. In the past, the idea of avoiding dishes containing meat and eating only seafood instead wasn’t optional but was mandatory. However, since then the Catholic Church has established that one may practice another penance instead. So if they wish to avoid the custom of no meat on Christmas Eve, it’s for reasons of their own.
Note: It is important to know that the Catholic Church encourages Catholics to abstain from meat on all Fridays. Though not mandatory (except for during the season of Lent) many Catholics practices this penance anyway. This is just as earlier traditions would have it.
Do Italians Eat Meat on Christmas Eve?
Not usually. Those families of Italian descent usually do Christmas Eve with no meat right before celebrating Christmas as a custom rather than a strict adherence to Catholic rules. This is, of course, unless the family is truly Catholic. Then, of course, this practice of skipping meat would be customary due to their beliefs and not as a mere act of cultural expectation.
Do Polish People Not Eat Meat on Christmas Eve?
It isn’t common practice for Polish people to eat meat or consume hard liquor on Christmas Eve. Hard liquor and other foods that are considered extremely expensive are sometimes avoided. This is a further act of penance due to the significance of the upcoming Christmas day.
Again, this comes down to the fact that this idea of abstinence before the major Christmas feast became a custom in the European world. Thus, a recipe served on Christmas Eve in European countries – like Poland and Italy – may feature seafood as the main dish without meat or other types of meat in sight.
Christmas Eve With No Meat For Every Catholic?
Remember that participating in Christmas Eve with no meat isn’t an obligation for every Catholic. Still, for many, it has become a customary part of acknowledging the birth of Jesus Christ. Thus, friends and families may choose to abide by these cultural norms, but they don’t have to.
And most certainly, everyone may freely consume meat on the day of Christmas. So, be sure to enjoy it!
When Christmas falls on Friday, can Catholics eat meat?
That’s a good question! If Christmas Eve falls on a Friday, fasting is no longer seen as a solemnity, but rather, as required if you normally would fast on a Friday. If you are of the sect of Catholics that do not fast on Fridays, then you would treat Christmas Eve the same as you would any other day. Unless, of course, you are choosing to fast on your own will.
Why Is seafood eaten on Christmas Eve in Italy?
This is in observance of eating no meat on Christmas Eve as originated by the Catholic church.