Those who grew up observing traditions of the Catholic Church will know all about the meat guilt on Good Friday. The more devout followers of the religion will have had this guilt probably every Friday, and many households will still observe a fishy Friday due to the Christian tradition. Abstinence from meat on Fridays is actually a rule laid out by the Vatican and remains in force today. Many Christians, especially Catholics, refrain from eating meat on Friday, and this tradition is most popular on Good Friday. Jesus was executed on Good Friday and died for our sins, he sacrificed his flesh for us. On the anniversaryбof ChristБs death, the church encouragesбfollowers to abstainбfrom eating meaty flesh of warm-blooded animals on this day. People are told to go for the alternative which is fish, as fish comes from the sea, they are cold-blooded, it is thought of as a different kind of flesh meaning it is okay for consumption on Good Friday. When Christianity was banned, fish symbols were used a secret symbol for Christians so they could identify each other.
The Apparition on the Lake of Tiberiade, from the story of Christ after the Resurrection, the verso of the Maesta altarpiece by Duccio di Buoninsegna, (c. 1278-1318) (Picture: Getty Images)
Many of JesusБ close followers wereб fishermen, and when the lord resurrected he cooked a fish meal for his Apostles. The history of the Christain religion is fishy alright. There were plenty of meat-free days in the medieval Christian calendar: Fridays, Wednesdays, Saturdays, Advent, Lent and other holy days like Good Friday. The global fishing industry grew as a result of the increased demand for fish because of holy fasting from meat. People demanded a lot of herring, a fish that was bland but plentiful, during medieval times when they really needed to preserve fishing supplies. The masses demand fresh fish, but this was very difficult to achieve with herring, so cod became popular because it tasted better when cured and lasted longer.
There was a Fridayб meat ban imposed by the Pope and ensured that the fishing industry was booming as a result, but in the 1960Бs these laws wereб relaxed by Pope Paul VI, but the Friday meat ban still applies to the 40 days of the Lenten fast. Refraining from eating meat on a Fridayб is a small sacrifice for the major sacrifice given by Jesus when he was crucified. The McDonaldБs Filet-o-Fish was invented by a franchise owner in Cincinnati, in a particularly Catholic area who struggled to sell his burgers every Friday, and came up with the Fillet-o-fish instead. The Friday abstinence rule is still in effect for Catholics, and can only be avoided each week if there is some other sacrifice in its place. MORE: MORE: maven101 Seabastian – Thanks for your comments. I had heard theories about helping the fish industry being a motive for this practice. However, not only was the eating of fish not mentioned in the rules surrounding this but the point was to get people to give something up and not to substitute one thing for another.
Also, Orthodox Churches in the East came out with a similar rule about the same time and they were too far away for their fish consumption to benefit the Italian fishing industry which, as I stated in the article, was limited to people living by the sea who fished to augment the diets of themselves and their neighbors. Where economics came into this was in 1966 when the rule was changed. Here is a link to a Time Magazine article that I used in researching this Hub and you can see from this article that there were concerns about what the effect of removing this rule would have on the U. S. fishing industry: I also remember in the news media at that time that there were discussions and comments about the negative impact that the change in the abstinence rule would have on the U. S. fishing industry.
However, the U. S. fishing industry in 1966 was a large industry that, as I pointed out in the article, sold fish to people in areas far from the sea, as well as one that consisted of large corporations with legions of professional lobbyists skilled in lobbying legislators in the political arena. And, as I recall, there was talk in the media speculating about the industry lobbying the Church not to make the change – but as I remember this was just speculation. I have also seen references to an economic study that was done after the change which showed that there was something like a 10% drop in seafood sales that could be attributed to the relaxing of the abstinence rules. However, I have not been able to find a copy of the study itself. Again, everything that I have found about lobbying to help the fishing industry referred to 1966 when the rules were relaxed and not in the Middle Ages when the rules were first released. Thanks again for your comments.