Can you eat meat on Holy Saturday before Easter?

Quick Answer

Yes, Catholics are permitted to eat meat on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday. After abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent and on Good Friday, the rules around fasting and abstinence are relaxed on Holy Saturday. Many Catholics will enjoy Easter eggs and other meat-based dishes in celebration of the end of Lent and in anticipation of Easter celebrations.

What is Holy Saturday?

Holy Saturday, also known as Easter Vigil, is the final day of Holy Week and the day before Easter Sunday in the Christian calendar. It is the day when Jesus Christ lay in the tomb after his crucifixion on Good Friday. Holy Saturday commemorates the day between Christ’s death and His resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Holy Saturday falls between Good Friday and Easter Sunday and is associated with mourning and waiting. While Good Friday is a solemn remembrance of Christ’s suffering and death, and Easter Sunday is a joyful celebration of His resurrection, Holy Saturday reflects the disciples’ grief, hopelessness, and confusion as they waited for the resurrection. It represents the anticipation felt on that day between Christ’s death and resurrection.

Do Catholics fast on Holy Saturday?

Catholics are not required to fast on Holy Saturday. Fasting, along with abstinence from meat, is only required on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

The Lenten fast requires that only one full meal be eaten per day. Two smaller meals are permitted as necessary to maintain strength. Eating between meals is not permitted. The requirements to fast are only binding on healthy adults ages 18 to 59.

While fasting is not required on Holy Saturday, some Catholics choose to continue fasting until the Easter Vigil on Saturday night as a personal sacrifice. However, the Church lifts all requirements to fast and abstain after Good Friday.

Can Catholics eat meat on Holy Saturday?

Yes, the Catholic Church permits eating meat on Holy Saturday. Abstaining from meat is only required on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all Fridays during Lent for Catholics age 14 and up.

After abstaining from meat on Fridays and Good Friday, Catholics are free to eat meat again starting on Holy Saturday. The Lenten fast and abstinence conclude after Good Friday, so meat can be eaten on Holy Saturday and does not have to wait until Easter Sunday.

Many Catholic families celebrate Holy Saturday by eating Easter eggs, lamb, ham, or other meat-based meals. The return to eating meat symbolizes the impending celebration and feast of Easter Sunday. Some Eastern European traditions include blessing Easter baskets containing meat, eggs, and butter on Holy Saturday.

What is prohibited on Holy Saturday?

While there are no dietary restrictions in the Catholic Church on Holy Saturday, the day does have a somber, solemn character. Weddings and other lavish celebrations are prohibited on Holy Saturday. Musical instruments are also not permitted to be played during the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday night.

Holy Saturday is still part of the Paschal Triduum, together with Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Even though fasting and abstinence end after Good Friday, Holy Saturday is still associated with mourning Christ’s death and waiting in hopeful anticipation of the Resurrection. Out of reverence for Christ’s suffering, avoidance of excessive celebrations is appropriate.

The solemnity of Holy Saturday makes it different than other Saturdays throughout the year. However, there are no official requirements for fasting, abstinence, or other sacrifices on this day.

What do Catholics do on Holy Saturday?

Traditionally, Holy Saturday was when catechumens (converts) were baptized into the Catholic Church. This symbolized the themes of death and new life associated with Christ’s death and resurrection and the disciples’ sorrow turning to joy. While Baptisms still occur on Holy Saturday today, they are not as common.

Common Holy Saturday traditions and observances include:

  • Morning prayer services
  • Visiting churches to pray at the altar of repose from Good Friday
  • Decorating churches and preparing for Easter Sunday masses and celebrations
  • Coloring Easter eggs
  • Blessing the food for Easter baskets
  • Completing the Lenten fast
  • Reflecting on Jesus’ death and awaiting the celebration of His Resurrection
  • Anticipating and preparing for the Easter Vigil mass in the evening

The Easter Vigil is a special mass held on Saturday night. It is focused on celebrating Jesus’ resurrection and symbolic of Him rising from the dead. The church is often still stripped of decorations and adornments. Then bells, music, flowers, candles and light are returned to the church during this Saturday evening vigil mass to celebrate the resurrection.

History of Restrictions on Holy Saturday

The restrictions around Holy Saturday have evolved over time. In the early Church, Holy Saturday was observed as a day of mourning with strict fasting continuing from Good Friday. The day was spent in prayer and reflection while awaiting the Easter Vigil celebration of Christ’s Resurrection.

By the 4th century, customs began to relax surrounding Holy Saturday. Fasting was still encouraged but not required. By the Middle Ages, the strictness had continued to decline as Easter celebrations began to occur earlier in the day on Holy Saturday.

In the 1950s, Pope Pius XII eliminated the requirement to fast on Holy Saturday. This recognition officially made Holy Saturday clearly distinct from Good Friday in terms of fasting obligations. In 1969, Pope Paul VI revised and simplified the rules around all Lenten fast and abstinence for Catholics.

While Holy Saturday maintains a somber character, the strict fasting is no longer required by the modern Church. However, some Catholics still choose to continue fasting from Good Friday through Holy Saturday as a personal sacrifice and spiritual discipline.

Regional Differences in Holy Saturday Traditions

Holy Saturday traditions vary somewhat across different areas of the Catholic world. Some examples include:

  • In Italy, Poland, and other parts of Europe, it is customary to bless Easter baskets containing food for the Easter Sunday meal on Holy Saturday. These baskets often include bread, meat, butter, and eggs.
  • In the Philippines, the religious procession known as the Salubong depicts statues of Jesus and Mary being brought together to symbolize Jesus’ resurrection.
  • In Medieval England, people would visit and venerate the Blessed Sacrament at the altar of repose on Holy Saturday, similar to visiting a grave.
  • In parts of Latin America, Our Lady of Solitude representations remain draped in black on Holy Saturday until a solemn re-dressing or “meeting” ceremony later in the day.

These diverse traditions all reflect the theological significance of Holy Saturday and local custom. They demonstrate unity amidst diversity within worldwide Catholicism. The global Church provides flexibility for various Holy Week observances while maintaining solidarity on central focus on Christ’s redemptive work.

Examples of Traditional Easter Foods Eaten on Holy Saturday

Here are some examples of traditional Easter and Lenten foods people enjoy on Holy Saturday as the fast concludes:

Easter Eggs

Decorating eggs is a beloved Easter and Holy Saturday tradition across many cultures. The egg symbolizes new life and Jesus’ Resurrection. Eggs were prohibited during the Lenten fast, so being able to eat them again on Holy Saturday is a treat. Some families decorate elaborate Easter eggs or have egg hunts for children. Others enjoy simpler hard-boiled eggs.


Lamb is eaten as an Easter meal in many areas. Jesus is described as the Lamb of God in the Bible. Lamb also represents spring. Leg of lamb meals provide a special meal after abstaining from meat for Lent.


Baked ham is another traditional Easter food. The meat is often prepared with a glaze or pineapple and cloves. Ham serves as the centerpiece main dish of the first meal eaten on Easter. It makes for amazing sandwiches too.

Hot Cross Buns

These sweet, spiced buns have an icing cross on top. They originate from medieval England but are enjoyed across many Christian cultures today as a Lent and Easter treat. Hot cross buns were made to use up any fat, eggs, or dairy in the house before Lent began.


Because yeast couldn’t be used during Lent, baking bread and rolls is traditional for Easter. Sweet breads like panettone, babka, and tsoureki (Greek) especially usher in the Easter celebration. Breads may be decorated or baked into different shapes.

Butter Lambs

Catholics in Poland and other Eastern European countries decorate butter into the shape of a lamb for blessing on Holy Saturday. Butter was avoided in Lent, so this represents the return of dairy. The lamb shape connects to Christ as the passover lamb.


Holy Saturday provides a bridge between the sorrow of Good Friday and joy of Easter Sunday. While the day maintains a solemn tone in remembrance of Christ in the tomb, it looks forward to the glory of the Resurrection. Any Lenten fasting and sacrifices conclude on Good Friday so many indulgences like meat are permitted on Holy Saturday.

Catholics can enjoy meat, eggs, dairy and other formerly prohibited food on this Saturday. Chocolate, lamb roasts, Easter breads, and hot cross buns are excellent ways to celebrate. Family activities like dying eggs, assembling Easter baskets, and preparing the Easter feast keep the day’s hopeful anticipation.

Attending the Easter Vigil mass on Saturday night is the pinnacle of Holy Saturday observance. The church transforms from stark mourning to jubilant celebration during this service as Christ’s triumph over death is proclaimed. Easter Sunday then launches with masses, meals, gatherings, and rejoicing across the world.

While customs vary across time and place, Holy Saturday liturgically bridges the gap between Good Friday sorrow and Easter Sunday joy for Catholics everywhere. The day reflects the disciples’ distress turning to awe and the Church’s faithful perseverance through darkness into light.

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