Can you eat meat Annunciation?

The Annunciation is the celebration of when the angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary to announce that she would conceive and bear the Son of God. It is celebrated on March 25th each year. This feast day marks the beginning of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Many Catholics observe the day by abstaining from eating meat as a form of fasting and penance. However, the strictness of this practice varies.

The Origin of Abstaining from Meat on Annunciation

Abstaining from meat on the feast of the Annunciation is an ancient tradition in the Catholic Church. In the early Church, Christians would fast before major feast days. Eventually this developed into abstaining from meat and dairy products on those days. The Annunciation marks one of the most important events in salvation history, so abstaining from meat is a way to honor and recognize that.

Over time, abstaining from meat became a formal requirement on Annunciation day in some places. Records from the late 600s show that Irish monks would abstain from meat and fish on this feast. In the early Middle Ages, the practice spread to England and France as well. Certain synods and councils made abstaining from meat mandatory on the Solemnity of the Annunciation.

Purpose of Fasting

Fasting and abstaining from certain foods is meant to be a form of self-denial and penance. By giving something up, Catholics sacrifice a little bit to commemorate an important holy day. Fasting is also beneficial for focusing the mind on spiritual things rather than earthly desires and pleasures.

On the Annunciation in particular, abstaining from meat symbolizes purity, similar to the virginity of Mary. As the time when Jesus was conceived, the Annunciation marks new life entering the world. Forgoing meat represents respect for that new life and spiritual rebirth.

Current Practice in the Catholic Church

Today, abstaining from meat on the Solemnity of the Annunciation is no longer required in the Catholic Church, though it is still recommended. Here are some key points on the current Church guidance:

Not an Official Requirement

Abstaining from meat on Annunciation day is considered a venerable tradition, but it is not an official requirement anymore. The strict obligation was relaxed in the 20th century. Current canon law only specifies abstaining from meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent.

Recommended and Encouraged

While not obligatory, Catholic bishops still encourage abstaining from meat on this feast day. As recently as 2007, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that “We should honor Christ not only on Fridays but on each of the days of Lent…with special devotion, including some self-denial and works of charity.”

So while not commanded, abstaining from meat or practicing some other form of penance is still recommended to honor the Annunciation.

Depends on Location

Some local dioceses and parishes may still mandate abstaining from meat for Annunciation. So whether or not it is required depends on location and the guidance from one’s local bishop.

For instance, in Eritrea, the church fasts and abstains from meat, eggs and dairy for three days before Annunciation. Some other countries with large Catholic populations like Spain, Italy and Poland may also have region-specific customs.

Fridays Still Required

While Annunciation itself does not necessarily oblige meat abstention anymore, Catholics are still required to abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent. If Annunciation falls on a Friday, as it does in 2023, the Friday lent abstention would apply.

So on Friday, March 25, 2023, Catholics should abstain from meat in commemoration of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday.

Guidelines for Abstaining from Meat

For those who choose to abstain from meat on the Solemnity of the Annunciation, what are the guidelines? Here are some key rules:

No Meat from Warm-Blooded Animals

Abstaining from meat means refraining from the flesh meat of warm-blooded animals. This includes beef, pork, chicken, turkey, etc. It also includes soup stocks and meat-based gravies made from these animals.

Seafood Allowed

Eating fish and other seafood is permissible. Fish are cold-blooded animals, so they have historically been classified separately from land animals for abstention purposes. Shellfish like shrimp and lobster are also allowed.

Dairy, Eggs and Condiments Permitted

Dairy products made from milk, like cheese, yogurt and ice cream, are allowed. Eggs from chickens or other fowl can also be eaten. As well, meat-based condiments like gelatin are permitted.

No Meat Products

While dairy and eggs are allowed, actual meat products are not. So food made with meat, like a chicken noodle soup, would not be appropriate for Annunciation abstention.

Also, meat broths and gravies cannot be consumed, even if made from fish or vegetables. Anything containing meat or meat products should be avoided.

No Snacking Between Meals

Traditionally, snacking between meals was prohibited when abstaining from meat. Only eating at mealtimes helps maintain the spirit of fasting and sacrifice.

However, this guideline may be more relaxed today, especially for those abstaining voluntarily rather than out of strict obligation.

Permissible Foods

Abstaining from meat certainly limits food choices. But there is still a wide variety of meatless options to create healthy, satisfying meals on the Annunciation:


Any fish, shellfish, lobster, shrimp etc. are allowed. So dishes like fish fillets, tuna salad, shrimp pasta, crab cakes, lobster bisque, calamari and seared scallops are all permitted.


Cheese, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese and ice cream offer protein options. Possible meals are vegetable lasagna, macaroni and cheese, yogurt parfaits, cheese ravioli and cauliflower cheese casseroles.


Eggs can be prepared any style – scrambled, fried, hard boiled, poached, baked, etc. Omelets, frittatas and quiches make hearty entrees.


All vegetables are allowed. Great meatless dishes include vegetable stir fries, roasted veggie bowls, portobello mushroom burgers, pasta primavera, bean chili, stuffed peppers, grilled vegetable kebabs and ratatouille.


Fresh fruit also makes a good replacement to meat as a source of nutrients and fiber. Possible options are fruit salads or kabobs.


Breads, rice, barley, farro, quinoa etc. Breads and starches, like rice or potatoes, can be the base of a meal. Some ideas are risotto primavera, vegetable fried rice, quinoa stuffed peppers, mushroom barley soup.


Beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas etc. These are excellent meat substitutes due to their protein content. Meals can include lentil shepherd’s pie, black bean burgers, hummus, falafel, pea soup or bean chili.

Tofu and Meat Substitutes

For those accustomed to meat-based meals, tofu and mock meats can help ease the transition. Possible dishes include tofu tacos, vegetarian sloppy joes, and meatless meatballs.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds offer healthy fats, protein and fiber. They can be used to add texture to dishes like stews, stir fries and salads.

Sample Menu for Annunciation Day Without Meat

Here is a sample menu that shows how a full day’s meals could be planned for Annunciation while abstaining from meat:

Meal Options
Breakfast Spinach and mushroom omelet
Yogurt parfait with fruit and granola
Whole grain toast with avocado
Lunch Minestrone soup
Salad with chickpeas, nuts and balsamic vinaigrette
Dinner Pasta with marinara sauce and vegetarian meatballs
Sauteed spinach with garlic
Whole grain bread
Dessert Fruit salad
Scoop of dairy-free ice cream, like sorbet

Celebrating the Annunciation Without Meat

Abstaining from meat on the Solemnity of the Annunciation can be a meaningful way to honor this special feast day. By following the traditional practice, Catholics unite themselves to the origins of Christianity and commemorate the miracle of the Incarnation.

While no longer an official requirement, abstaining from meat is still recommended for Annunciation. Many still find value in sacrificing something small as an offering of devotion. It serves as a reminder of the purity of Mary and need for spiritual rebirth in our own lives.

If you choose to abstain from meat, be sure to still eat plenty of nutritious dairy, eggs, vegetables and seafood. Approach the day with prayerfulness, thinking about what the Annunciation means for your faith. Whether you abstain from meat completely or just limit your intake, this tradition can bring you closer to God during this holy feast of the Annunciation.

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