The annual tomfoolery of Mardi Gras is about to come to an end as practicing Catholics prepare for the Lenten season. For 40 days and 40 nights, followers traditionally sacrifice something until Easter, the holiest day in the religion. Generally, participants abstain from eating meat on Fridays during this period, but other fasting and abstinence rules beyond that can get murky. Some of them from the Code of Canon Law, a guide created by the Vatican, have been shared below.
Who has to fast? People who are 18-59 are required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. A proper fast means only one full meal is eaten that day. Snacks can be consumed in the morning, afternoon or evening. The snacks are dependent on when the full meal is eaten. It can be had at any time.
Who cannot eat meat? Catholics age 14 and older should abstain from meat on Ash Wednesdays and all the Fridays during Lent, especially Good Friday, which is the last one before Easter.
What constitutes “meat”? Dairy products, including eggs, and condiments made from animal fat are not considered meat products for Lenten fasting purposes. This means chicken broth, gravies and sauces flavored with meat can be eaten. Butter, lard and margarine are also allowed. Even if meat drippings are poured into a sauce, and there are bits of meat, this, too, can be consumed.
It’s not just about food. While staying away from meat is a major part of Lent, it’s not the only important thing. Catholics are advised to forgive each other and demonstrate their love. It’s recommended followers go to mass daily, or several times a week.
What should I give up? Lent does not have to be about going without. Instead of giving something up, good deeds can be done. For instance, do a community or charitable activity like reading to the blind, volunteering at a local soup kitchen, or giving an overworked mother a break by babysitting.
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