This year, Valentine’s Day is about more than just chocolates and flowers. The holiday of love falls on a religious holiday as well: Ash Wednesday is also on February 14th, marking the first day of Lent. If you observe this holiday, or your date does, you might want to find out if you can eat meat on Ash Wednesday before making any dinner reservations.
Ash Wednesday is an ancient Catholic holiday that marks the first day of Lent, the beginning of the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday. It’s one of the holiest days of the year. Although this is chiefly a Catholic holiday (many Christians observe it as well), it came from the ancient Jewish tradition of penance and fasting. The ashes given out at church represent the dust from which God made us.
This Catholic holiday is one of the holiest days of the year, and as such, it comes with some rules. Ash Wednesday is a day of prayer and fasting — and yes, that means that those who observe it cannot eat meat for the entire day. Very religious people will often take the day off, as it’s considered inappropriate to shop, go out to eat, or even be in public once you get your ashes. Extremely religious people will sometimes fast for the entire day.
So…what does Jesus’s resurrection have to do with meat? The purpose of Lent is to reflect and prepare for the day Jesus comes back to life. Lent is not meant to be a time of celebration; it’s a solemn, holy time that isn’t necessarily considered “happy.” Observers are supposed to free themselves of sin and selfishness, which is one reason religious people will typically give up something they love for the 40 days. You are supposed to learn the feeling of going without something you love but don’t need. It’s not supposed to be easy. It’s supposed to teach a lesson.
Which brings us to the whole “no meat” thing. Since ancient times, meat has been thought of as something really good, something people enjoy eating. That is why Catholics don’t eat meat on Ash Wednesday, or Fridays during Lent. According to Bulldog Catholic, “meat was singled out because it is associated with celebrations and feasts.” Meat was also often considered to be a luxury in ancient times. It was given up to teach Catholics about sacrifice, because Jesus sacrificed himself for the religion.
Make sense? The important thing to take from this is: You can’t eat meat on Ash Wednesday if you’re traditionally observing the holiday. Sorry! If you want to go out to eat on Valentine’s Day, start making your reservations for plain cheese pizza now.