Where does the practice of not eating meat in Lent come from? – The financial

“Now follow the time of penance and refreshments”, describes the chronicler Manuel Payno in the stories of the first half of the 19th century published in Mexican customs, where he realizes the chia and horchata vendors during Holy Week they settled in the Portal de las Flores, of the churches full of old women attentive to the sermons of every Friday, and also of the season of capirotada and shrimp pancakes.

Over time, the religious customs of the 40 days of Lent and after the Holy Week have influenced Mexican habits and food has not been the exception, because in that period there are days of abstinence from meat and fastingwith which a great variety of dishes has emerged to comply with the mandates.

About 200 years ago Payno described it as a “religious annual fun” Well, not everything was piety and devotion in the city, since great preparations began in large families:


“The people who all year have accustomed their broth with lemon at noonand his chest molito for dinner, find a positive pleasure in substituting these days the usual delicacies with capirotada and bean soup, the jumble of rosemarythe shrimp cake and in some places the luxury goes as far as putting egg-wrapped slices of extremely salty sea bass fish and lettuce or cauliflower salad. Only the rich usually get indigestible with the waking food”.

Not eating meat on holy days has become customary in the midst of religious commemorations and dates back to the earliest Christian communities.

Why don’t you eat meat during Lent?

As is customary since long before the great-grandmothers prepared their capirotada, the Ash Wednesday and the Holy Friday are established as days of fasting and abstinence from meat.

Abstinence is one of the oldest practices in the traditions of the Church and is a matter of custom, as he explains in an interview David Vilchisfounding member of the Seminar of Religious Intersections (SEMIR) and professor at the Lumen Gentium Catholic University.


According to the specialist, there is much confusion due to its age and because there is no clear regulations regarding this practice so deeply rooted in the Christian people since the first communities, although in general terms this has its origin in the mortification.

David details several examples in this regard: in the Code of Canon Law it is mentioned as a voluntary resignationdeny yourself; the Conference of the Mexican Episcopate speaks of sacrifice; Juan Pablo Segundo mentioned the Christian life as a life of mortification; the monarchical tradition describes it as discipline and self-control; or, Saint Thomas talks about curbing the lust of the flesh.

“This has the idea of join the sacrifice of Christ or remember the sacrifice of Christ with this penitential life”, says Vilchis, in addition, it is a specific mandate of the penitential times: Lent and every friday of the yeardays when, in theory, meat is not eaten either; however, this practice is less common in the general population and is carried out more rigorously in seminaries and convents.

Why is red meat and not fish prohibited in Lent?

Red meat does not star abstinence by chance, David Vilchis states that there are two versions of the reason.

The first is an explanation that has been widely disseminated from the Primate Archdiocese of Mexico, which rescues the social dimension; According to the researcher, it is based on the fact that meat It was expensive and fish more accessible to communities living in poverty, “an idea that the rich joined the perpetual fast of the poor and with that savings it could be invested in works of mercy”.

The second possibility about the origin is rooted since before Christianity, it takes us to the jewish traditionwhich distinguished clean and unclean animalstaken up by Saint Thomas Aquinas, who pointed out that one should not eat “anything that rests on earth and breathes air”, that is, everything except living beings from the sea and food that is born from the earth.

“It was considered that the red blood was impure and stainedwhile the animals that come from the water do not have this red blood, it was not associated with impurity, but with a greater purity or vitality when being in the water, because there is this idea that the water is purityit was considered that the fish was pure”.

Thus, according to ancient tradition, during holy days you can only eat fish, fruits, vegetables, cereals and all their derivatives, which excluded chicken, although over time this issue has changed depending on the context.