Why do people eat fish on Good Friday? Easter tradition explained, and why Christians don’t eat meat

Many people across the UK traditionally eat fish and chips on Good Friday
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Good Friday is a Christian holiday commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus at Calvary. It is observed in the Holy Week, the most sacred seven-day period in the Christian year, where believers recall the events that led up to Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Other notable events of the week are Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, also known as Holy Thursday and Easter Sunday.

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This year, Good Friday falls on 7 April for followers of Western Christianity and 14 April for followers of Eastern Christianity. But why do people eat fish on Good Friday? Here’s what you need to know.

Why do people eat fish on Good Friday?

Many people across the UK traditionally eat fish and chips on Good Friday. Christians believe that Jesus was crucified on Good Friday, and sacrificed his flesh for their sins. The tradition of not eating meat on Good Friday and opting for fish instead goes back for centuries.

According to Roman Catholic customs, Christians refrain from eating the flesh of warm-blooded animals on this Friday.

This rule is also applied to Catholics during Lent too. Some Christians, predominantly Catholics, extend this tradition to all Fridays.

Why is fish not seen as meat? 

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The Church law said not to consume "land animals": "Abstinence laws consider that meat comes only from animals such as chickens, cows, sheep or pigs — all of which live on land. Birds are also considered meat."

However, fish are not seen as the same classification, as they are also cold-blooded. When this rule was created, meat was seen as a delicacy and a luxury. Animals were only slaughtered to provide meat when there was something worth celebrating. Therefore, meat was seen as a celebratory cuisine, but fish was an everyday item as many people worked as fishermen.

Is anything else banned on Good Friday?

Across the world, Good Friday is seen as a public holiday, with schools and shops shutting up for the day. These countries are usually ones with strong Christian traditions, such as Spain, Brazil and Finland. Laughing and dancing is banned in German, as comedic theatre performances and public dancing are illegal on this day. However, there have been protests to overturn the ban, but with little success.

In Spain, Holy Week is a vital religious time, with processions occurring throughout the country, the most famous being in Malaga. Bermuda’s Good Friday tradition is flying handmade kites to symbolise the cross and his eventual ascension into Heaven. In the UK, traditionally, no horse racing was not allowed, but since 2008, betting stores and shops first opened on this day and in 2014, Lingfield Park and Musselburgh staged the UK’s first Good Friday race meetings.

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