Fast Day History, Customs, Traditions and Images
In a general sense, a fast day is simply a day when a person fasts from something, which means they choose to go without it, usually for a spiritual reason (although some people do so for health reasons). In ancient times (such as when the Bible was written), fasting was a way to show that people were sorry for their sins, and also a way for them to discipline themselves spiritually.
For many religious people today, many days are fast days. Christians, Muslims, Jews, and other religions observe periods of fasting. While any day can be a fast day, certain religions ask their adherents to observe particular days for fasting.
In the modern Catholic Church, there are two official fast days: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Each fast day falls within the traditional Lenten fast, during the Season of Lent. The Lenten fast used to be very strict, and at different times throughout history, the faithful were expected to fast from meat, dairy, eggs, and other items throughout Lent. Today, the Orthodox keep a Lenten fast that is rather strict in its dietary expectations.
The Catholic Church defines a fast day very specifically. It is not simply going without any food. For Catholics, the expectation is that on a fast day, a Catholic will eat only one full meal, which must be meatless (meat is the flesh of a warm-blooded animal, so fish is allowed). On these fast days, Catholics may still eat a breakfast and even a lunch in addition to the full meal, if the two smaller meals combined do not equal a second full meal. In other words, you are allowed one regular sized meal during the fast day. Snacking is not permitted, but drinking juices, coffee, etc, between meals is allowed. Fasting is only required of Catholics from ages 18-59. Those with health conditions do not have to fast. Eastern Catholic Churches have different guidelines.