Can you eat red meat at Easter?

The quick answer is that yes, you can eat red meat during Easter. There are no strict rules in Christianity prohibiting the consumption of red meat during Easter celebrations. Some Christians choose to abstain from eating red meat on Good Friday to observe the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, but there are no requirements to avoid red meat on Easter Sunday or the remainder of the Easter season.

Is eating red meat prohibited during Lent?

Many Christians choose to abstain from eating red meat and other animal products during the 40 days of Lent leading up to Easter as a form of fasting and penance. However, there are no universal requirements to avoid red meat or meat in general during Lent. Different Christian denominations have different traditions regarding Lenten fasting practices. Some encourage abstaining from meat during Lent, especially on Fridays, while others view this only as an optional spiritual discipline. The choice to abstain from red meat during Lent is a matter of individual conscience and devotion.

What are the origins of abstaining from red meat during Lent?

The tradition of abstaining from meat during Lent likely originated in the early centuries of Christianity as a way for faithful to undertake a period of sacrifice and penance leading up to the Paschal celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Over time, the custom developed in Western Christianity to avoid land animal meats and products during Lent, while still allowing the consumption of fish and seafood. Some of the reasoning for this tradition include:

  • To identify with the sacrifice of Christ by making a personal sacrifice
  • To refrain from festivities and celebrations in preparation for Easter
  • To limit the consumption of animal fats and meats as a practice of self-denial
  • To simplify meals and curtail extravagant foods before the Easter feast

By the Middle Ages in Europe, the tradition to abstain from land animal meats was widely established, allowing fish as the main Lenten protein source. The practice endures today in Roman Catholicism and some Protestant denominations, but many Christians view it only as an optional custom rather than an obligatory rule.

Do Catholics have to avoid red meat on Fridays during Lent?

In the Roman Catholic Church, abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent is still a requirement according to the Code of Canon Law. Catholics over the age of 14 are to abstain from eating meat on all Fridays during the Lenten season. It does not have to specifically be red meat; all meat from land animals and birds is to be avoided. Fish and seafood are permitted. Some other considerations regarding this practice include:

  • Meat products derived from land animals, like broths and soups, are also to be avoided on Lenten Fridays.
  • Eggs and dairy products like milk, cheese, and butter are still permitted.
  • Oils made from animals, like lard, are to be avoided.
  • Catholics who have health concerns or other issues with abstaining from meat can consult with a priest about alternatives.
  • Some dioceses allow Catholics to substitute special acts of charity, piety, or abstinence from other foods and drinks on Fridays instead.

So while red meat does not need to be avoided completely during Lent for Catholics, refraining from meat of all kinds on Lenten Fridays is still considered an important tradition and penitential practice.

Do Orthodox Christians abstain from red meat during Lent?

In the various Eastern Orthodox Churches, abstaining from red meat and other animal products during Lent is also commonly practiced. Guidelines vary across the different Orthodox jurisdictions and traditions. Some general guidelines include:

  • All animal products like meat, eggs, dairy, lard, etc are avoided during the entirety of Great Lent before Easter.
  • Fish is permitted, except on certain feast days when all animal products are avoided.
  • Red meat, poultry, and dairy are avoided on Wednesdays and Fridays year-round, not just during Lent.
  • Some Orthodox monks and devout laity avoid all animal products year-round as a spiritual discipline.

However, these fasting guidelines are not compulsory for all Orthodox laypeople. Those new to the faith, pregnant women, the elderly, or the infirm may be given dispensation to eat more animal products by their spiritual fathers. But avoiding red meat and limiting animal products during Lent is seen as an important Orthodox tradition.

Do Protestants today abstain from red meat during Lent?

In the various Protestant churches today, the practice of abstaining from red meat or meat in general during Lent is less common and considered voluntary. With the Protestant Reformers of the 16th century, many of the obligatory Catholic fasting practices, like avoiding meat on Fridays, were abandoned in favor of allowing individual liberty of conscience. Some insights on Lenten practices among modern Protestants:

  • There are no prohibitions against eating red meat or meat in general during Lent.
  • Some Protestant denominations, like Lutherans and Methodists, encourage the voluntary spiritual discipline of abstaining from meat or fasting during Lent.
  • Anglicans and Episcopalians may also personally choose to avoid red meat or meat on Lenten Fridays in solidarity with the Catholic practice.
  • Giving up meat for Lent is seen as an optional devotion, not an obligation.

So while many Protestants freely eat red meat during Lent, some may personally choose to abstain from certain meats or foods as a way to observe the season leading up to Easter.

What other animal products are traditionally avoided during Lent?

In addition to red meat, various Christian traditions have encouraged abstaining from other animal products during Lent. Some additional animal foods traditionally avoided include:

Animal Product Details
Poultry Chicken, turkey, and other birds were also avoided in many Lenten traditions along with red meat.
Eggs Eggs from chickens and other fowl were discouraged, but fish eggs like caviar were sometimes permitted.
Dairy Milk, butter, cheese, and other dairy products from livestock animals were also avoided during periods of Lenten fasting.
Lard/Animal Fats Rendered fat from pigs and tallow from cattle was avoided in favor of plant-based cooking oils.
Broths/Meat Stocks Meat-based broths, consommés, and stocks were also excluded for fasting times.

So while red meat was particularly emphasized, many Lenten fasting traditions encouraged abstaining from all animal flesh as an act of self-denial and penance.

Are there any exceptions when red meat is permitted during Lent?

In some traditional Lenten fasting guidelines, there were a few exceptions when animal products like red meat could be consumed on certain feast days or under special circumstances. Some potential exceptions include:

  • Red meat could sometimes be permitted on high feast days like the Annunciation or Palm Sunday.
  • Pregnant or nursing mothers were sometimes exempted from fasting restrictions due to health concerns.
  • The elderly, the very young, and the infirm could also be excused from some fasting regulations.
  • Some regions permitted the consumption of lard or meat drippings for cooking purposes rather than direct consumption.
  • Soldiers, laborers, and those with strenuous professions were sometimes given dispensation to eat meat more regularly.

However, these exceptions were not universal practices and differed across regions. Many Lenten fasting guidelines were quite strict about abstaining from red meat and animal products. But some allowances were made for feast days or special health circumstances.

Why is fish permitted but red meat avoided in many Lenten traditions?

The tradition in Western Christianity of allowing fish while prohibiting land animal meats like red meat during Lent has been based on several reasons:

  • Fish was seen as a lesser category of animal flesh, compared to red meat which represented indulgence and feasting.
  • Coastal regions and inland lakes/rivers provided ready access to fish as an approved protein source.
  • Fish remains a “cold-blooded” animal without warm red blood like mammals and fowl.
  • Jerome, Augustine, and other Church fathers saw fish as an acceptable Lenten food but condemned red meat.
  • Abstaining from red meat but allowing fish provided a feasible way to limit meat consumption.

So while complete vegetarianism was considered extreme, avoiding red meat and other land animal products while permitting fish established a balanced Lenten discipline. This tradition remains in place today in many denominations.

What are some tips for abstaining from red meat during Lent?

For Christians who voluntarily choose to give up red meat for Lent as a spiritual discipline, some helpful suggestions include:

  • Consider limiting other meats – Give up pork, chicken, lamb and other meats in addition to just red meat.
  • Enjoy sustainable seafood – Fish like salmon, tilapia, cod and shellfish can provide Lenten protein.
  • Explore plant-based proteins – Try legumes, tofu, eggs, dairy and nuts for hearty nutrition.
  • Research meatless recipes – Expand your recipe repertoire with global cuisine full of flavor.
  • Join a support group – Fellow parishioners can provide accountability and encouragement.
  • Anticipate obstacles – Plan for vacations, holidays, and restaurants that may lack meatless options.

With some planning and creativity, abstaining from red meat for 40 days can be a meaningful and achievable Lenten devotion.


While not universally mandated, abstaining from red meat and other animal products during Lent remains an important tradition for many Christian denominations. This practice has ancient roots as a form of penance and sacrifice which prepares believers for the Passion of Christ and the joy of Easter. While some churches strictly require avoiding meat on Lenten Fridays or throughout Lent, many treat this as a voluntary spiritual discipline today. With proper planning and mindset, abstaining from red meat can still be a powerful way for Christians to observe the Lenten season.

Leave a Comment