Do we fast if Christmas is on a Friday?

Do we fast if Christmas is on a Friday? December 18, 2015

A reader writes:

I hope that you and your beautiful family are well and as always thank you so much for the wonderful work that you do. I do have a quick question though and I am hoping you may know the answer. What is he Church’s teaching on the obligation of abstaining from meat on Fridays when a particular Friday is a major holiday. For what it is worth I also gave up meat on Saturdays for my many other issues I have….I have a lot of Atoning to do.

Big giant feasts like Christmas mean you not only may  but *must* indulge yourself.  No fasting on Christmas.  All of creation is throwing a party.

Thank you again for your time and I wish you and your family a wonderful holiday Season and a Joyful Christmas.

And the same to you and yours!  Happy Advent and Merry Christmas!

Addendum:  A reader sends along the following quirky anecdote about St. Francis of Assisi:

When Christmas Day fell on a Friday some of the friars asked St Francis if it was OK to eat meat, to which he replied, “On this day, even the walls should eat meat.” He then proceeded to slap some lard on the wall, just to make the point.

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  • Reader Yesterday

    Yup, never fast on a *feast* day! But if you want to observe an ancient custom (and you are not obliged to) you may fast, or abstain, or offer something up the day before. For me, wrapping gifts is a penance so I try not to complain about it. 🙂

  • John Zulauf

    One major difference between Protestants and Catholics — while we both have practices that look quirky to outsiders, at least the Catholic ones seem to at least be usually thought through. (Says the Protestant that often shakes his head sadly at the fad-of-the-month club that Protestantism can sometimes be…)

    Merry Christmas to all my brothers and sisters in Christ. Feast indeed!

  • Greg

    my good Catholic friends, have you never considered that you can be eating and yet “fasting” at that same time? There have been some holidays when I consumed heartily and with great merriment in outward appearances from the bounty of our table, while keeping deep in my heart and with every breath a complete and devesating awareness of all those who have nothing to eat on that day.

  • Fr. Terry Donahue

    This is answered explicitly in the 1983 Code of Canon Law:

    “Abstinence from eating meat or some other food according to the prescripts of the conference of bishops is to be observed on every Friday of the year unless a Friday occurs on a day listed as a solemnity.” (Code of Canon Law, Can. 1251)

    Furthermore, the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy extends application of the same principle to devotions:

    “Where this system [of assigning various mysteries of the Rosary to particular days] is rigidly adhere to, conflict can arise between the content of the mysteries and that of the Liturgy of the day: the recitation of the sorrowful mysteries on Christmas day, should it fall on a Friday. In cases such as this it can be reckoned that ‘the liturgical character of a given day takes precedence over the usual assignment of a mystery of the Rosary to a given day; the Rosary is such that, on particular days, it can appropriately substitute meditation on a mystery so as to harmonize this pious practice with the liturgical season’ (Congregation for Divine Worship, Circular Letter Guidelines and proposals for the celebration of the Marian Year, 62, b)” (Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, 200)

  • I love how Francis responded (even though I’m a vegetarian). Christmas is a time for joy – let the good times roll.

  • Peggy R

    This is right. Never on a feast day. For example, if the Feast of St Joseph falls on a Friday in Lent, we do not have the obligation to fast. Surely, Christmas ranks higher than St Joseph, as worthy as he is. And it’s not even Lent.

    Stick with what you know, Mark, and it works well.

  • Elaine S.

    Even in the pre-Vatican II era, the obligation to abstain from meat was dispensed on feast days such as Christmas. However, Christmas EVE, pre-Vatican II, was a day of fasting and abstinence, which is why some Catholic cultures (Italians, Poles, etc.) have a tradition of eating fish or other seafood on Christmas Eve.