I understand the concept of Lent and the not eating meat but is it allowable to eat poultry? And why is fish okay? Is fish an option because of the fish link to Jesus?
No connection, as far as I know, specifically with Jesus and fish.
When the practice of giving up meat for Lent originated, meat (defined here as “anything that you might consider meat-like that isn’t fish”) was considered a “luxury” item, while fish was not. Fish was something that the common (read: poor) people ate. Lent was supposed to be a time of practicing self-restraint, discipline, and sacrifice, so they were asked to not eat meat during Lent. (This was eventually pared down to just Fridays.)
Lindsay recently told me about a book she was reading where the Benedictine monks (IIRC) came up with some kind of cheese that tasted like meat. Their idea, apparently, was “Well, we can eat cheese during Lent but we can’t eat meat.” (Apparently even monks look for loopholes.) Benedict responded by banning that cheese during Lent because the whole point of the practice of not eating meat was self-denial so making something that tasted like meat but wasn’t technically meat was really not kosher.
So to speak.
(Sorry I’m not sorry.)
Of course, today it is common for ‘Mericans to have a big ol’ fancy fish fry or some other gluttonous-but-fish-based dinner on Fridays during Lent, because moderation, self-discipline, and self-denial go against The ’Merican Way, and while many people might talk a good game about Christianity, what most people practice is The Religion Of The ’Merican Way. And when Christianity conflicts with TROTMW, Christianity always loses.
Aside: “How long is Lent? 40 days, right?”
Those of you who have given something up for Lent might be surprised to know that those “40 days” were actually 46 days. (This is worse than when women realize that despite being told that pregnancy lasts for “9 months” it’s actually “40 weeks” which is closer to 10 months than 9.)
For example, this year Ash Wednesday was on February 13th and Easter was on March 31. There were 28 days in February, 15 days starting on February 13th and then 31 days in March = 46 days.
The extra 6 days are the 6 Sundays between Ash Wednesday up to (and including) Palm Sunday. Because each Sunday is supposed to be a celebration of the resurrection, they are not considered part of Lent.
(This is usually the point at which someone says “Wait, does that mean that if I gave something up for Lent, I can cheat on Sundays and it won’t count as cheating?” Unfortunately for them my answer is no because if you gave something up “for Lent” then that’s expected to mean “starting on Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Sunday” but you should definitely get credit for 46 days of sacrifice, not just 40.)
“Why ham instead of lamb?”
I know lamb is common for Easter in some places but ham seems to be a standard in the US. Do you suppose that the choice of pork is a way to distinguish between previously being Jewish and upon the acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah, then became an acceptable dietary choice? That’s not really a question specifically for Catholics but maybe some of you have a theory.
That definitely sounds like a plausible theory, but http://www.foodtimeline.org/easter.html cites “Encyclopedia of Religion, (Mircea Eliade editor in chief [MacMillan:New York] 1987, volume 5 (p. 558))” with this theory:
“Among Easter foods the most significant is the Easter lamb, which is in many places the main dish of the Easter Sunday meal. Corresponding to the Passover lamb and to Christ, the Lamb of God, this dish has become a central symbol of Easter. Also popular among European and Americans on Easter is ham, because the pig was considered a symbol of luck in pre-Christian Europe.”
That sounds plausible, but so does this explanation from About.com:
In the United States, ham is a traditional Easter food. In the early days, meat was slaughtered in the fall. There was no refrigeration, and the fresh pork that wasn’t consumed during the winter months before Lent was cured for spring. The curing process took a long time, and the first hams were ready around the time Easter rolled around. Thus, ham was a natural choice for the celebratory Easter dinner.
Surprisingly, the websites I found which suggested that eating ham on Easter was a way to ‘stick it to the Jews’ mostly seemed to be crackpot conspiracy theory sites. I say surprisingly because it does seem to be a natural “Hey this is a way that we show we are Christians and not Jews” act, and that was a big issue in the early church because the first Christians were Jews (Christianity was seen a ‘sect’ of Judaism) and followed Jewish dietary laws as well as practices such as ritual circumcision. In the early days Christians would gather attend Jewish religious services and Sunday worship services until around 60 a.d (I might be wrong on the date) when the Christians apparently became annoying enough that the Jews threw them out of the temple and basically said “Pick a side.”
(Again: I was never very good at Church history and I have a crappy memory, but that’s my recollection of the history from my seminary days.)
Yes, this really is the kind of thing I think about because I’m a weirdo who is fascinated by religions and their history.
Well it’s understandable for one weirdo to be fascinated by organized
weirdos religion. Early Christians were definitely seen as weirdos. People thought that Christians maybe ate babies, and were obviously cannibals. Apparently having the central part of your religious ceremony be a reenactment of the time when the head of your religion instructed His followers to “eat His body” and “drink His blood” was confusing to people. Imagine that.
My Favorite Fish Story
John was the only Protestant to move into a large Catholic neighborhood. On the first Friday of Lent, John was outside grilling a big juicy steak on his grill. Meanwhile, all of his neighbors were eating cold tuna fish for supper.
This went on each Friday of Lent.
On the last Friday of Lent, the neighborhood men got together and decided that something had to be done about John, he was tempting them to eat meat each Friday of Lent, and they couldn’t take it anymore. They decided to try and convert John to Catholicism.
They went over and talked to him. He liked them all so much and it seemed to mean so much to them that he decided to join all of his neighbors and become a Catholic.
They took him to Church, and the Priest sprinkled some water over him, and said, “You were born a Baptist, you were raised a Baptist, but now you are a Catholic.”
The men were so relieved–now their biggest Lenten temptation was resolved.
The next year’s Lenten season rolled around. The first Friday of Lent came, and just at supper time, when the neighborhood was setting down to their tuna fish dinner, came the wafting smell of steak cooking on a grill. The neighborhood men could not believe their noses!
They called each other up and decided to meet over in John’s yard to see if he had forgotten it was the first Friday of Lent.
The group arrived just in time to see John standing over his grill with a small pitcher of water.
He sprinkled some water over his steak on the grill, saying, “You were born a cow, you were raised a cow, but now you are a fish.”