Why do Catholics eat fish on Good Friday?

Answered by Randy McIntyre

Catholics eat fish on Good Friday as part of a long-standing tradition rooted in religious beliefs and practices. The observance of abstaining from meat on certain days, particularly Fridays, has its origins in the early Christian Church. This practice was seen as a way to honor the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, particularly his crucifixion on a Friday.

The reasoning behind abstaining from eating warm-blooded animals, such as mammals and birds, can be traced back to the belief that Jesus, being a warm-blooded animal himself, gave up his flesh for humanity. By refraining from consuming meat on Fridays, Catholics symbolically participate in Christ’s sacrifice and express their gratitude for his ultimate act of love.

Interestingly, fish, which are cold-blooded creatures, were not considered to be in the same category as warm-blooded animals. Consequently, they were deemed acceptable to eat on fasting days, including Fridays. This distinction allowed Catholics to continue fulfilling their religious obligations while still having a source of protein and sustenance.

Over time, this practice evolved into a widespread tradition of consuming fish on Fridays, particularly during the Lenten season leading up to Easter. Lent is a period of solemnity and reflection, during which Catholics often engage in acts of penance and self-discipline. Abstaining from meat, including indulging in fish-based meals, is seen as a way to mimic Christ’s sacrifice and to focus on spiritual growth and purification.

The association of fish with religious observances goes beyond Good Friday. Throughout the liturgical year, there are various feast days and religious holidays that call for abstaining from meat and consuming fish instead. This includes Ash Wednesday, all Fridays during Lent, and certain holy days of obligation.

The practice of eating fish on Good Friday and other designated days is deeply ingrained in Catholic culture, passed down through generations. It has become not only a religious tradition but also a cultural one, with many families and communities incorporating fish-based meals into their celebrations and gatherings.

It is worth noting that while the tradition of eating fish on Good Friday is primarily followed by Catholics, other Christian denominations and individuals may also choose to abstain from meat on this day as part of their own religious practices.

The tradition of eating fish on Good Friday among Catholics has its roots in the belief that abstaining from warm-blooded animals honors the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This practice has been passed down through generations and is observed as a way to participate in Christ’s sacrifice and express gratitude. While fish are permitted due to their classification as cold-blooded creatures, the tradition has become deeply ingrained in Catholic culture and is observed on various other religious days throughout the year.