Is the Feast of the Annunciation a day of abstinence?

Quick Answer

The Feast of the Annunciation, which celebrates the angel Gabriel’s announcement to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and bear the Son of God, is a solemnity that occurs during Lent. However, it is not considered a day of abstinence.

What is the Feast of the Annunciation?

The Feast of the Annunciation celebrates the visit of the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, during which he informed her that she would conceive and bear the Son of God (Luke 1:26-38). It is celebrated on March 25, nine months before Christmas. This feast day marks the actual incarnation of Jesus Christ and the moment that God became man and dwelt among us.

The Feast of the Annunciation has been celebrated since at least the 5th century. It is an important solemnity in the Catholic Church and a principal feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It emphasizes Christ’s humanity and the fullness of time when God sent his son to redeem mankind.

When is the Feast of the Annunciation?

The Feast of the Annunciation is celebrated on March 25 each year. It is held exactly nine months before Christmas Day, commemorating the gestation period of Jesus in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. When March 25 falls within Holy Week or Easter Week, the feast is moved to the Monday after the Octave of Easter Sunday.

How is the Feast of the Annunciation observed?

As a solemnity, the Feast of the Annunciation is observed with the highest liturgical rank in the Catholic Church. On this day, even Lenten fast and abstinence may be dispensed if the solemnity falls on a Friday. Masses on the Annunciation have special readings and prayers that commemorate the Incarnation.

Many churches hold special prayers, processions, or reenactments to mark the occasion. Church bells traditionally ring out at noon in honor of the event. It is a holy day of obligation in some countries, when Catholics are required to attend Mass.

What are the rules of abstinence during Lent?

During the season of Lent, Catholics ages 14 and up are required to abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays during Lent. This includes beef, pork, poultry, and sometimes fish and eggs as well. However, seafood such as shrimp, lobster, crab, and clams are permitted.

Technically, abstinence requires refraining from meat, but not from dairy products or eggs. However, some choose to practice a more rigorous abstinence by avoiding all animal products on Lenten abstinence days.

The purpose of abstinence is to remind Catholics of the sacrificial nature of Lent and engage in the spiritual discipline of self-denial. It is a form of fasting and penance that helps focus the mind on God and express sorrow for sins.

Exceptions to the Rules of Abstinence

There are a few exceptions to the Lenten law of abstinence:

  • Those with a medical condition or other serious health concerns are not required to abstain.
  • Pregnant or nursing women have additional nutritional needs and are exempt.
  • Children under the age of 14 are not required to abstain.
  • The rule does not apply on solemnities like the Feast of the Annunciation.

The obligation to abstain can also be replaced with other pious or charitable acts, at the discretion of one’s local bishop or pastor, particularly for those with financial or other constraints.

Is the Feast of the Annunciation a solemnity or a day of abstinence?

The Feast of the Annunciation is a solemnity, the highest rank of liturgical celebration. When it falls on a Friday during Lent, it takes precedence over the law of abstinence and meat may be eaten on this day. So the Feast of the Annunciation is not considered a day of abstinence.

There are conflicting views on whether Catholics should abstain on the Friday before or the Friday after the Feast of the Annunciation if it occurs on a Friday. Some diocesan regulations encourage abstinence on these Fridays, while others view the Friday abstinence as entirely superseded.

Generally, the solemnity nullifies the Lenten Friday abstinence for that particular day. But some choose to additionally honor the Annunciation by abstaining on the Friday before or after it.

Key Points

  • The Feast of the Annunciation is a solemnity that celebrates when Gabriel announced Jesus’ conception to Mary.
  • Solemnities take precedence over Lenten disciplines like abstinence.
  • So the Feast of the Annunciation, even if it occurs on a Friday in Lent, is not kept as a day of abstinence.
  • Catholics are divided on if abstinence should be practiced on the Friday before or after the feast.
  • But the feast day itself is always a non-abstinence solemnity.

When does the Feast of the Annunciation occur during Lent in the next several years?

Here are the dates when the Feast of the Annunciation falls during Lent in the coming years:

Year Date of Annunciation Day of Week
2024 March 25 Monday
2027 March 25 Thursday
2030 March 25 Monday
2033 March 25 Saturday
2036 March 25 Wednesday

As the table shows, between 2024 and 2036, the Feast of the Annunciation falls on a Friday in Lent only once, in 2027. On that particular day, abstinence would not be required.

Examples of Past Dates for the Annunciation during Lent

Here are some examples of when the Feast of the Annunciation fell on Fridays during past Lents:

  • March 25, 2016 – This Annunciation Friday was not held as a day of abstinence.
  • April 4, 2005 – The feast was moved to the Monday after Divine Mercy Sunday.
  • March 26, 1999 – As a solemnity, it superseded the Friday abstinence.

In each of these cases, the Annunciation solemnity outweighed the Lenten discipline, so abstinence was not required on the feast itself.

How common is it for the Annunciation to occur during Lent?

The Feast of the Annunciation falls during Lent on average about twice per decade. However, there can be gaps of many years between occurrences, or multiple years in a row where the feast lands in Lent.

For example, there was a span of 18 years without the conjunction from 1976 to 1994. But then it occurred on Lenten Fridays three times in five years from 1994 to 1999.

Over a 100-year period from 1920 to 2020, there were 22 years when Annunciation fell within Lent. So about 22% of the time, the two seasons overlapped.

Why does the Annunciation sometimes fall in Lent?

The date of Annunciation on March 25 and the floating date of Easter, which determines when Lent begins, both contribute to how often this conjunction happens.

Lent begins 40 days before Easter Sunday (not counting Sundays). Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring. So it can range anywhere from March 22 to April 25.

If Easter comes early in a year, Annunciation is more likely to land within the Lenten season. When Easter is late, Annunciation will usually have passed before Lent begins.

Should feast days ever supersede Lenten disciplines?

There are different perspectives on whether solemnities like the Annunciation should override Lenten practices:

Perspective 1: Feasts take priority

  • Solemnities commemorate profound mysteries like the Incarnation.
  • Feast days outrank penitential days in the liturgical calendar.
  • The Church obligates solemnities even during Lent.
  • Keeping the solemnity is a joyful break from the Lenten routine.

Perspective 2: Lenten sacrifices should remain

  • Lenten abstinence forms character and draws one closer to God.
  • It should only be disrupted in cases of serious need.
  • Solemnities can still be celebrated faithfully while fasting.
  • Lenten sacrifices bring joy through spiritual discipline.

Catholics can prayerfully consider both perspectives and follow their conscience. The Church allows leeway to maintain Lenten sacrifices on solemnities or to celebrate the feast fully instead.

How can the Annunciation solemnity be honored if abstaining?

Catholics who choose to abstain from meat on the Annunciation for the sake of continuing their Lenten observance can still find meaningful ways to celebrate the solemnity:

  • Attend a joyful Mass for the Annunciation and meditate on the Incarnation.
  • Pray the Angelus or other Marian devotions.
  • Read Scripture passages about the Annunciation event.
  • Reflect on Mary’s openness to God’s will and example of discipleship.
  • Make an effort to perform additional spiritual or charitable deeds.

Honoring the solemnity through prayer and Scripture reading allows Catholics to keep the spirit of Lent while celebrating the Incarnation within their hearts on this special feast.


The Feast of the Annunciation, as a solemnity, exceeds the Lenten rule of abstinence when it falls on a Friday during Lent. While some choose to additionally abstain before or after the feast, the day itself centers on joyfully commemorating when God became man through the willing fiat of Mary.

The powerful message of the Incarnation may call for a respite from bodily mortification, so that the faithful can enter into the mystery and give it their full spiritual attention. Yet keeping the solemnity in spirit while abstaining in body also has merit when done with prayerful intention. Through Mary’s example of obedience to God’s will, Catholics can celebrate the Annunciation well whether abstaining from meat or not.

Leave a Comment