Holiday fasting and feasting: Passover and Lent

Food, culture, religion and springtime signify a period of abstinence, fasting and refrain for both Jews and Christians.

Passover isn't considered a "fasting" holiday tradition since celebrants aren't asked not to eat. Instead, during the holiday Passover celebrations, practicing Jewish faithful refrain from foods wtih leavening agents. Unleavened bread (or bread without baking powder, yeast or other rising agents) replace traditional breads and commemorate the joyous occassion when God rained down bread, or manna from heaven for the flocks of freed Isrealites who fled Egypt.

To commemorate the first borns' escape from the plague, the eldest first born sons in contemporary times are asked to fast the day before Passover.

Because Passover celebrations are a celebration of a glorious new life, fasting doesn't summarize the tradition of unleavened bread. Christians fasts, like Muslims during Ramadan, to reach a higher level of consciousness.

Fasting in the Christian Easter/Lenten holiday tradition often means sacrificing a favorite sweet bun for breakfast, coffee,or coffee and sugar in the mornings. Catholic bishops, however, contend that fasting means the refrain from eating meat every Friday during the 40 days of Lent (the 40 days before Easter Sunday) as well as Ash Wednesday. Fasting also means one meal per day.

Jesus Christ's selfless giving and suffering during his walk to Mount Calvary. His crucifixion and resurrection is a central tenet of the Christian faith. Fasting during Lent, abstaining from eating meat on Fridays, as well as sacrficing a favorite (and often unhealthy or unnecessary food) are meant to be reminders of sacrfice, and a period to consider and do for the poor. If, for example, a Christian sacrificed Starbucks for a month, the money saved could go to charity.

Passover isn't a time of disengaging from certain foods, it's a time to engage in certain foods, particularly unleavened bread. Matzah is the traditional bread eaten three times a day during Seder. Matzah, made only with flour and water, represents faith and humility as its two ingredients are the most humble of all foods.

Click here for passover recipes.

Easter Sunday's dinner for Christian families can be as large, garnished and symbolic as Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, except ham,lamb and chicken typically comprise the meat menus. Southern Living, one of the top go to magazines for recipes, offers ten classic Easter Sunday dinner recipes online.

Image: Passover Seder table, courtesy wiki

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