NEW ORLEANS — It’s fish fry season! But why is it that from Ash Wednesday to Easter, Catholics don’t eat meat on Fridays?
The Boeuf Gras, or “fatted ox,” which is a permanent fixture in Rex on Mardi Gras Day, is a symbol of the last meal of meat before the Lenten season.
Here in New Orleans, the Friday fish fry took off in the 1920s and 1930s and has been a profitable fundraiser for churches and a source of income for restaurants.
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis says that up until 1966, Church Law prohibited meat on all Fridays throughout the whole year.
The Code of Canon Law now states, “Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays unless a solemnity (feast day) should fall on a Friday.”
Here’s why: meat was at one point considered an indulgence, so abstaining from meat on certain days is intended as a form of penance and a way for Christians to honor Jesus’ sacrifice of his flesh on Good Friday.
That means no meat from birds, cows, sheep, or pigs. Although, in 2010, Archbishop Gregory Aymond gave his okay for alligator meat on Fridays, saying it’s in the fish family.
In a letter, he wrote, “God has created a magnificent creature that is important to the state of Louisiana, and it is considered seafood.”
There is something a little different this year. St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday in 2023. Archbishop Aymond has given New Orleans Catholics the okay to eat customary and traditional dishes that contain meat but encourages them to pick another day to abstain.
While there’s no guarantees there’s alligator on the menu, we do have an interactive map of fish fries in the New Orleans area on our website.
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