Why can’t you eat meat on Christmas eve? (3 Facts)

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, Why can’t you eat meat on Christmas eve? We will discuss the reasons meat such as chicken and pork is avoided on Christmas but fish is an important part of the festivity.

Why can’t you eat meat on Christmas eve?

You can eat meat on Christmas eve because the Roman catholic practiced the tradition of abstaining from meat before noon was lifted in 1966. The Catholics did not eat meat before noon on Christmas day, the practice is still alive in some places.

According to the current law of the Catholic church, abstinence from meat is non-mandatory but is still being practiced by some. The Italians and the Polish, for example, refrain from eating meat and eat fish instead. 

If Christmas Eve falls on Friday, then you will need to keep the fast of meat abstinence. A Catholic needs to follow the rules set by the national bishops’ conference. 

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has agreed that a person can perform an act of penance instead of abstaining from meat. If your bishop’s conference allows the substitution, then you would have to follow the rule.

What are the religious grounds for abstaining from meat at Christmas?

Vigil day or the day before nativity is celebrated before Christmas that is marked by abstinence and piousness. 

The Catholic Christians believed in refraining from eating meat and offering prayer, and psalms. Fasting from meat rekindled gratitude and heightened the pleasure of food and feast on Christmas. 

The Catholics also made fasting obligatory from 18 to 60 years while avoiding meat as fast starts at 14. Not only meat but the belief states that you must stay away from opulence and luxury. 

The day of reflection and fast dictated that you eat one full meal in a day without meat or dairy. The practice was nullified in 1966 by Pope Paul VI, however, in some European countries, meatless meat is eaten until Christmas Eve arrives. 

The culture seems to stay inhabited by people of Polish and Italian descent who still prefer abstaining from meat before noon on Christmas Eve. 

Can you eat seafood on Christmas eve?

As meat and dairy were prohibited on Christmas Eve, Catholics turned to seafood as their meat option. According to the Bible, Seafood is not considered to be meat, hence, it was permitted. 

Meat from land animals such as chickens, cows, pigs, and turkey. The word meat is from Latin meaning animal flesh.

The practicing Catholics ate fish and reserved other meats for the feast day. A traditional practice of preparing seven fish on Christmas day originated in Italy where a large feast was prepared with an assortment of fish dishes. In Italy and Sicily, fish were already abundant.

The number of dishes can be seven, nine, eleven, or even as high as thirteen. The most common number is seven, hence the feast is also referred to as ‘The Feast of the Seven Dishes’.

What is the feast of the seven fishes?

The Italian Catholics included either or more of Baccala, Cod Fish Balls, fried smelts, fried Calamari, marinated eel, fried cod, or fried shrimp. 

As the Italians settled in America, some of their ways took off, including the practice of eating fish on Christmas. Hence the immigrants spread the Feast of the seven fishes to the US. 

Seven being the god’s number, seven fish dishes are meant to be served on Christmas. The reason for choosing seven, however, is arbitrary and so is the number. 

Other households would make nine, ten, twelve, or thirteen fish. The number seven is the sacred number, it is mentioned numerous times in the Bible. 

The feast would include mussels in spaghetti, fried calamari, anchovies, sardines, shrimp scampi, tuna sauce, and lobster fra diavolo. 

What do you eat at Christmas?

A popular dish called baked cod is prepared with mayonnaise, where the garlic cloves are mashed, and then egg yolk, dijon mustard, and lemon juice are added. 

The fish preparation starts after the oven is preheated and anchovies, parsley, oil, and ground black pepper are added.

After that, make a paste and place the cod filets in the baking tray. 

Add breadcrumbs, anchovies, and parsley and bake at 400 F for 20-25 minutes. Serve with garlic mayonnaise.

Eel is a delicacy in Italy and is made into a dish called cenone. Eel is served religiously in a Catholic Italian household. 

As the preparations for Christmas start, meat-based dishes are generously prepared and served on the day including, Christmas ham, roast beef, chicken, and turkey.

Other meat-based items include prawns and bacon, and lamb. Other unconventional meats include roast duck pheasant, prime rib roast, and duck liver pate.

Other FAQs about Meat that you may be interested in.

Can you eat spoiled meat?

Can you eat meat on Christmas eve?

Can you boil frozen meat?


In this brief guide, we answered the question, Why can’t you eat meat on Christmas eve? We discussed the reasons meat such as chicken and pork is avoided on Christmas but fish is an important part of the festivity.



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