Alternative ideas for what to give up for Lent beginning Ash Wednesday. Reuters

Practicing Roman Catholics traditionally sacrifice something for the 40 days and 40 nights of Lent, which starts on Ash Wednesday, but they are also instructed to abstain from meat on Fridays during this time. Since who and how this rule applies can be confusing, some of the rules, which comes from the Code of Canon Law, a guide put together by the Vatican, have been shared below:

Who is expected to participate: People from the ages of 18-59 are expected to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. This means, participants only eat one full meal for the day. Snacks can be had at any time during the day. It doesn’t matter when the full meal is consumed.

Who is allowed to skip the “no meat” rule on Fridays: Catholics who are 13 and under do not have to participate. However, those 14 and older should abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, all the Fridays in Lent and especially Good Friday, which is the last Friday before Easter.

What counts as “meat”: While poultry, beef, pork and more are not allowed to be consumed, Dairy products are allowed. This includes eggs and condiments and dressings that are made from animal fat. That means butter lard and margarine are permitted too. If meat drippings make their way into a source, it’s OK to eat them.

What should be given up: While most people assume they must sacrifice during this time, Lent doesn’t have to be about going without. Instead, people can do community service, like volunteering at a local soup kitchen, or even help an overworked mother with some babysitting.

Lent is not just about food. Even though there are many rules about fasting, the most important part of Lent is for Catholics to forgive each other and demonstrate their love. During this time, followers are recommended to go to mass daily or several times a week.

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