A suggestion before Christmas: fast and abstain and perform works of mercy

It is a Christian custom that we fast before our feasts.

Our friends at Rorate remind us that before 1965, 23 and 24 December were days of fasting and abstinence.

May I suggest to you good readers that you do something along these lines?

Perhaps cutting back on what you eat or that you abstain from meat be taken seriously for a couple days before Christmas.

Couple the mortification with some corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. APX says:

    Our priest recommended this to us in Sunday. This doesn’t really work in my family, as we celebrate Christmas Eve traditionally by going out for supper and committing gluttony usually after going to Mass. We don’t celebrate really Christmas Day.

  2. Supertradmum says:

    I am old enough to remember 23rd and Christmas eve fasting, as I was 16 when the rule changed. We ate very simply. Some families had clam chowder on December 24th, as the day was meatless. We had no cookies, Christmas bread, stollen, or alcohol until after Midnight Mass, or when we were very small, until after Mass on Christmas morning. Grandma made cabbage roles, fish soup, and I had borscht without the meat broth on Christmas Eve. Fasting helps the mind as well as the body, as I have discovered. Also helps with intercessory prayer. As to spiritual works of mercy, one is instructing the ignorant, which Father Z does well here.

    In the old Czech families, including my Grandma’s, The Christ Child brought the presents, not Santa, and no one could see the tree until He came and left the presents. Nuts were presents, as were certain dried berries. In my own family, we did not do Santa, as St. Nicholas came on his day, and the presents were from Jesus. I think fasting helps focus on the Real Gift, the Bread of Life, from Bethlehem- “House of Bread”. Amazing what we can do without…and, it is hard and should be.

  3. New Sister says:

    I am grateful to know about this practice, Father Z. This blog post is the first time I’ve heard of it – thank you.

  4. capchoirgirl says:

    A good idea…will try tomorrow! Christmas Eve could be done until after Mass, because then it’s time for A Big Meal. (We’re Italians!)

  5. kat says:

    We do “Santa” but have, from the oldest child on down, explained that he is the deliverer of the gifts from Jesus, Who gives all gifts. (That also makes a lot more sense as to why “he knows if we’ve been bad or good”…since God sees all things!)

    Since I have a Dutch heritage, we put our shoes out for St. Nicholas on Dec. 6; he brings oranges and candy mostly, and sometimes a small gift.

    When my children were younger we used to have a very special meal on Jan. 6, and the 3 Kings left small religious items under the napkins for everyone. When we fell on hard times this little bit had to be stopped; and then one thing after another came up where we couldn’t even be home to have the special meal. But it was fun while it lasted.

    As my children get old enough to know the “truth” about Santa, it is easy because I can continue explaining how all we receive comes from Our Lord, and He can use whomever He wants to distribute His gifts.

  6. kat says:

    Sorry…that post wasn’t really about fast/abstinence was it? My mind drifted as I read others’ comments and added to that. We keep the traditional fast/abstinence on the Vigil. I didn’t realize it was once held on the 23rd as well. This year being a Friday, the 23rd will be meatless. Perhaps I can get in a fast as well. Thanks Fr. Z for telling us this.

  7. jesusthroughmary says:

    Hence the Feast of the Seven Fishes….

  8. Honest question: Does fasting and abstinence include abstinence from alcohol? I’d assume so.

  9. Joshua08 says:

    Saint Irenaeus,

    No. Alcohol does not break abstinence or fasting (except the Eucharistic fast of course)

    Indeed, even the Carthusians drink.

  10. Mamma B says:

    In the Ukrainian Catholic Church, we observe St. Phillip’s fast from Novemeber 15th until the Nativity. For our family, this means no meat on weekdays, but we do eat meat on Sat/Sun, so it is not as strict as the Great Fast before Pascha (Easter.) Usually Christmas Eve is a day of strict fasting (no meat/eggs/dairy) but because it falls on a Saturday this year, the strict fast has been transferred to the previosu Friday. It will actually seem strange to be able to have meat on Christmas Eve!

  11. @Joshua08: Really….wow. That’s good news. Although I suspect a Guinness or two would be more appropriate than a martini or margarita.

  12. Liquid bread is highly appropriate during fasts. And if it’s Trappist liquid bread, you can drink it in your beer chalice. :)

  13. Mary Jane says:

    Excellent idea, Fr. Z. I will do what I can!

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