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Do United Methodist Church members really eat ham during Easter?

I knew a classmate who was Methodist. She told me that she ate ham during Easter. Is this a Methodist church tradition? Are Methodists allowed to eat meat during Easter or Lenten season?

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Plenty of Christians have no problem with eating ham during any time of the year. Ham is a pretty common substitute for turkey during major holiday meals in the U.S.A. (Christmas, thanksgiving, Easter) Methodists wouldn't really have any reason not to eat ham, and since it's convenient and tasty, I'm sure many Methodists eat it on Easter. –  David Stratton Aug 11 '13 at 2:37
    
@DavidStratton But Methodists are also known to observe Lent, which takes place before Easter and forbids eating meat. Ham is meat, because it is usually made from pork. So, is ham eaten during Easter? Is Easter a break after Lent for Methodists? –  Anonymous Aug 11 '13 at 2:45
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Simple answer: Easter is not part of Lent. Please see my post for a fuller explanation! –  John Peyton Aug 11 '13 at 3:23
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You know, after some arguments, they eat crow for Easter dinner –  Affable Geek Aug 12 '13 at 18:50
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up vote 6 down vote accepted

I think you may be confusing the terms a little. There's a simple solution to your question.

Easter is the joyful celebration of Christ's resurrection.

Lent is the forty-day* period leading up to Easter. It is a time of penitence and fasting.

Many Christians observing the Western-style liturgical calendar (this probably includes your friend) fast in some way—often from meat, if possible—during Lent. This fast is broken on Easter, when lots of rich foods are eaten. Ham is a traditional Easter meal in the West.

When you understand this aspect of the calendar, it actually makes a lot of sense to eat meat on Easter.

You can read more about the church calendar at Ken Collins's web site.


(*) You might notice that Lent is actually longer than forty days. The reason for this is a bit detailed and dry, so read only if you're curious!

The week before Easter is referred to as Holy Week; it begins with Palm Sunday (the commemoration of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem). Holy Week contains Maundy Thursday (commemorating the Lord’s Supper) and Good Friday (commemorating the day of Jesus’ crucifixion). As you can imagine, this week is especially sombre and penitential.

In the Eastern church, Holy Week is not considered part of the forty days of Lent; they last forty days beginning from Clean Monday, with the last day on a Friday. The day after this is Lazarus Saturday, followed by Palm Sunday and Holy Week.

In the West, Holy Week got counted as part of Lent. The extra days are accounted for by making Sundays not count as full fasting days. Lent is then two days shorter than in the East, beginning on Ash Wednesday. Not counting Sundays, there are forty days from Ash Wednesday till Easter.

In both traditions, the season of Easter lasts 49 days till Pentecost. Fasting is not encouraged—in fact, it may be generally prohibited, especially in the first week of Easter, which is called Bright Week.

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So, are catechumens reminded of this yearly routine so that they may observe Lent at the right time of the year? Is it excusable or forgivable if a Christian fails to keep track of the calendar? –  Anonymous Aug 11 '13 at 4:26
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Well, the calendar is mostly for public worship, not private observance. Church services are built around the calendar, so that a catechumen could hardly fail to "keep track" unless they were not attending services, or not paying attention during them. With that in mind, observation of the calendar is not a strict commandment, rather than a way of life. Forgetfulness is not seen as a sin. –  John Peyton Aug 11 '13 at 4:42
    
@Anonymous I forgot to tag you… –  John Peyton Aug 11 '13 at 17:16
    
@Anonymous Many Methodist churches have an Ash Wednesday service, where worshipers are urged to prayerfully consider either giving up something as a fast--or alternatively, taking on something extra--during Lent. So that's one way we can be reminded. –  Bruce Alderman Mar 27 at 4:48
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This page (Lent 101 from the UMC) gives a guide to Lent from a Methodist perspective. It is very similar to other protestant traditions.

Lent is a time for fasting and prayer, but fasting means different things to different people/denominations.

From the page I linked to above:

FASTING: Some people have been known to go without food for days. But that's not the only way to fast. You can fast by cutting out some of the things in your life that distract you from God. Some Christians use the whole 40 days to fast from candy, tv, soft drinks, cigarettes or meat as a way to purify their bodies and lives. You might skip one meal a day and use that time to pray instead. Or you can give up some activity like worry or reality tv to spend time outside enjoying GodÕs creation. What do you need to let go of or "fast" from in order to focus on God? What clutters your calendar and life? How can you simplify your life in terms of what you eat, wear or do? Some people have been known to go without food for days. But that's not the only way to fast. You can fast by cutting out some of the things in your life that distract you from God. Some Christians use the whole 40 days to fast from candy, tv, soft drinks, cigarettes or meat as a way to purify their bodies and lives. You might skip one meal a day and use that time to pray instead. Or you can give up some activity like worry or reality tv to spend time outside enjoying GodÕs creation. What do you need to let go of or "fast" from in order to focus on God? What clutters your calendar and life? How can you simplify your life in terms of what you eat, wear or do?

With that definition of "fasting" you can give up anything. It's not about just giving up meats. Therefore, there's no reason not to eat Ham during Easter or Lent. For Methodists, as with most Protestant denominations, how we celebrate Easter and lent are a very personal choice, rather than a rigid, prescribed, dictated way of celebrating.

There is no prohibition against eating meat, whether ham or any other kind, so if your classmate ate ham for Easter, it's really nothing to be surprised about.

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I did not express surprise. I just thought that somewhat contradicted what I knew of Lent, which was supposedly a time when Lent-observing Christians fast and abstain from meat. So, everything took place in my head. But thanks for answering my question. :-) –  Anonymous Aug 11 '13 at 3:04
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