Christians of many denominations abstain from meat for all or part of the liturgical season of Lent. 

For Roman Catholics, “all Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the entire Church.” In addition, “abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Christians believe that Jesus was crucified and died on a Friday — which is why the day is penitential. 

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The practice of giving up meat on Fridays may seem simple, or even non-consequential — but it has a deeper meaning, Fr. David Paternostro, S.J., a Jesuit priest based in St. Louis, told Fox News Digital. 

“In giving up something so ordinary that sustains us, we have an opportunity to set Fridays apart, reflecting upon the events of Good Friday and how it sustains us spiritually,” he said. 

“Meat,” in this case, is defined as the flesh and organ meat of mammals and fowl, meaning that broth, lard and other byproducts do not count as consuming meat, even if they come from mammals or fowl.

Fish, also, does not count as meat for the purposes of Lenten abstinence. Fish (and shellfish), unlike mammals and birds, are cold-blooded.

Given that fish is a permitted food during Lenten Fridays, it has become a tradition in parts of the United States for churches to offer a fish-fry dinner during the Fridays of Lent. 

The fish fry first made its way to the United States with the influx of Catholic immigrants from Eastern Europe, says Travel Wisconsin. 

Side dishes of french fries, hush puppies, cole slaw, and macaroni and cheese are also common at Lenten fish fries. 

Much of the Midwest, along with Pennsylvania and Buffalo, New York (which had their own sizable Catholic immigrant populations), have strong fish-fry traditions that have continued to the present day. 

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Typically, food at a Lenten Friday fish fry is served at a church hall or other community center, and involves fried (or baked) cod, perch or similar fish. 

The food is usually prepared and served by members of the church. 

Side dishes of french fries, hush puppies, cole slaw, and macaroni and cheese are also common at Lenten fish fries. 

baked cod preparation

Fr. Edward Looney, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Shawano, Wisconsin, is restarting his parish’s fish fry this year as a way to raise funds for his parish and build a community among his flock. 

“In Wisconsin, a lot of bars do fish fries year ’round,” Looney told Fox News Digital. “I have memories of going out for fish most Fridays when I was a kid.”

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Parish fish fries, in Wisconsin at least, serve as “an alternative to bar culture during Lent.” 

“We know that most parishioners are following the Church’s guidelines” in terms of abstaining from meat on Fridays, said Looney. 

“If everybody’s eating fish, why not do so at church and support the parish and its mission,” he also said.

women serving fish fry

While the rising cost of fish and other groceries has made the fish fry less profitable than it has been in years past, Looney “believes it is great for community building and bringing both Catholics and non-Catholics together for food at the table.”

Looney’s last parish suspended its annual fish fry during the coronavirus pandemic, but “we all believed it was important to bring it back for the sake of having an event in our small rural community.”

His new parish had not held a fish fry in “the last few years.”

“I recommended bringing it back, in part as a fundraiser, and secondly to gather our school and parish communities,” he told Fox News Digital. 

Nick Sciarappa, youth minister at St. Luke the Evangelist in Ambridge and Sewickley, Pennsylvania, told Fox News Digital that his parish holds two fish fries during Lent. 

These fish fries contribute to “teen scholarships, teen retreats, mission trip funding — and especially calorie intake,” he said. 

For more Lifestyle articles, visit www.foxnews.com/lifestyle.

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