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Food and Religion

The nature of religious food practices
Food belief and practices in the worlds
major religions.
Western religions
Eastern religions

Religious dietary practices vary
Religious food practices have been
Religion-related food habits are among
the most variable of culturally based
food habits.

Nature of religious food practices
Food practices which fulfill the functions may be
characterized as either prohibiting or requiring
the use of specific foods in specific situations.
Taboo are ways of maintaining the status quo in
a group by identifying, through means of
symbols, cultural rules which cannot be
transgressed without danger to the individual or
the group.
Prohibitions may be circumvented in a number of
Prescriptive rules or what must be eaten, when
and how, are the counterpart of prohibitions.
Food beliefs and practices in
world religions
Western religion
Eastern religion

Second largest religious group in the world. 5-8 million in
the US.
In the US, the Nation of Islam or the Black Muslims
started with African Americans.
Dominant religion in the Middle East, northern Africa,
Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Large numbers of people also follow the religion in part
of sub-Saharan Africa, India, Russia and Southeast Asia.
Not only a religion, but also a way of life, followers are
"Muslimseach Muslim is directly responsible to God,
Quran (Koran or Quran): sacred writings of Islam, "Five
Pillars of Islam.
Halal, Islamic dietary laws
Eating is part of worship, Self-indulgence is
discouraged, followers should only eat until 2/3
of their capacity, sharing food is encouraged,
eat only with the right hand
Halalpermitted or lawful foods
Haram unlawful or prohibited food

Halalpermitted or lawful foods

Foods that are produced according to

the laws of Islam are sometimes
marked with a symbol to designate they
are halal .

Haram unlawful or prohibited
(a) Food of Animal Origin
1. Pigs and boars.
2. Dogs, snakes and monkeys.
3. Carnivorous animals with claws and fangs such as
lions, tigers, bears and other similar animals.
4. Birds of prey with claws such as eagles, vultures,
and other similar birds.
5. Pests such as rats, centipedes, scorpions and other
similar animals.
6. Animals forbidden to be killed in Islam i.e., ants,
bees and woodpecker birds.
7. Animals which are considered repulsive generally
like lice, flies, maggots and other similar animals.
8. Animals that live both on land and in water such as
frogs, crocodiles and other similar animals.
9. Mules and domestic donkeys.
10. All poisonous and hazardous aquatic animals.
11. Any other animals not slaughtered according to
Islamic Law.
12. Blood and blood products.

(b)Plant origin
Intoxicating and hazardous plants except where the
toxin or hazard can be eliminated during processing.
Alcoholic drinks.
All forms of intoxicating and hazardous drinks.

(d) Food Additives

Allfood additives derived from Items (a), (b)
and (c).

Islamic Feast Days
1. Eid al-Fitr, the feast of fast breaking
the end of Ramadan is celebrated by a
feast and the giving of alms
2. Eid al-Azha, the festival of sacrifice
the commemoration of Nabi Ibrahims
willingness to sacrifice his son, Ismail,
for God.
3. Maulud Nabi the birthday of Nabi
Muhammad s.a.w.
Islamic Fast Days
Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and
coitus from dawn to sunset.
Food can be eaten before the sun comes up and
again after it sets.
Muslims are required to fast during Ramadan, the 9 th
month of the Islamic calendar.
It is believed that during Ramadan, the gates of
Heaven are open, the gates of Hell closed, and the
devil put in chains.
At sunset the fast is usually broken by taking a
liquid, typically water, along with an odd number of
During Ramadan, it is customary to invite guests to
break the fast and dine in the evening; special foods
are eaten, especially sweets.
Food is often given to neighbors, relatives and needy
individuals or families.
Muslims are also encouraged to fast :
6 days during Shawal;
10th day of the month of Muharram
9th day of Zul Hijjah
Mondays and Thursdays

Muslims are not allowed to fast on :
Festivaldays (Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Azha)
Tashriq (11th, 12th and 13th days of Dhu-al-
Fast excessively

3 dominant Christian faiths;
Roman Catholicism
Eastern Orthodox Christianity
How many sacraments and how they are
observed vary across the Christian groups
Food items that Christians believe to be a gift
from God such as honey, milk, grapes and

Roman Catholicism
Largest number of person adhering to one
Christian faith in the US.
Immigrated from Germany, Poland, Italy,
Ireland, Mexico, Philippines, Southeast Asia.
The dietary practices of devout Catholics center
around the restriction of meat or fasting
behaviors on specified holy days.
On the designated days, Catholics may abstain
from all food, or they may restrict meat and
meat products. Water or nonstimulant liquids are
usually allowed during the fast.
Feast days
Christmas (the birth of Christ)
Easter (the resurrection of Christ after the
New Years day
Annunciation (March 25)
Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter)
Ascension (40 days after Easter)
Pentecost Sunday (50 days after Easter)
Assumption (August 15)
All Saints day (November 1)
Immaculate conception (December 8)
Holiday fare depends on the familys
country of origin.
Example :
French traditionally serve a rich cake in the
shape of a Yule log on Christmas for
Italians serve panettone, a fruited sweet

Fast days
Fasting permits only one full meal per day at
It does not prohibit the taking of some food in
the morning or evening; however, local custom
as to the quantity and quality of this
supplementary nourishment varies.
Abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of
eggs, dairy products, or condiments made of
animal fat and is practiced on certain days and in
conjunction with fasting.
Prefer to eat fish.
Eastern Orthodox Christianity
As old as the Roman Catholic branch of
Russia, Rumanians Serbs, Greece have
large populations, in US, more than 3
millionabout 2 million from Greece
Not as prevalent in the US.
Feast days Easter is most important,
(Easter eggs are decorated; eggs died
red the most typical in Greece).
Eastern Orthodox Feast Days
Feast Day Date
Christmas Dec. 25
Theophany Jan. 6
Presentation of our Lord into the temple Feb.2
Annunciation Mar. 25
Easter First Sunday after the full moon
after Mar. 21
Ascension 40 days after Easter
Pentecost (Trinity) Sunday 50 days after Easter
Transfiguration Aug. 6
Dormition of the Holy Theotokos Aug. 15
Nativity of the Holy Theotokos Sept. 8
Presentation of the Holy Theotokos Nov. 21

Dates depend on whether the Julian or Georgian calendar is followed 22

Fast days
Fast days - No meat or animal products
Fish is avoided, but shellfish is allowed

Eastern Orthodox Fast Days and Periods

Fast Days
Every Wednesday and Friday except during fast-free weeks :
Week following Christmas till Eve of Theophany (12 days after
Bright Week, week following Easter
Trinity Week, week following Trinity Sunday
Eve of Theophany (Jan. 6)
Beheading of John the Baptist (Aug. 29)
The Elevation of the Holy Cross (Sept. 14)
Fast Periods
Nativity Fast (Advent) : Nov. 15 to Dec. 24
Great lent and Holy Week : 7 weeks before Easter
Fast of the Apostles : May 23 to June 16
Fast of the Dormition of the Holy Theotokos : Aug. 1 to Aug. 15.

Dates depend on whether the Julian or Georgian calendar is followed
Hallmark: an individuals direct responsibility
to God in matters of faith
Christmas and Easter are the primary
religious holidays
Holiday foods are determined more by family
ethnicity and origin than by religious practice.
Only a few denominations such as Mormons
(Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints)
and Seventh-Day Adventists have dietary
practices integral to their faith.
Mormons (Protestant)
The Church of the Latter Day Saints, started
in America in the 1800s, Utah: 80 percent
No tobacco, strong drink (alcoholic
beverages), and hot drinks (specifically tea
and coffee), many Mormons do not use any
product that contains caffeine
Eat meat sparingly, diet based on grains esp.
Encouraged to have one year of food in
reserve and to fast one day a month
Seventh-Day Adventists

One half million is the US, One million

worldwide, originated in the US in 1860s
The Sabbath is observed from sundown on
Friday to sundown on Saturday, food
prepared on Friday, dishes washed on
Believe that sickness results from violating of
the laws of health.

Health is preserved through eating the
right foods in moderation, having
adequate rest and exercise.
Overeating is discouraged.
Vegetarianism is widely practiced, but
adherents do eat milk and eggs (lacto-
ovo); no tea, coffee, alcohol, tobacco.
Many do not eat meat, pork and
Originated over 4000 years ago, nation as
well as a religion
Uses the Torah
Two primary sects of Judaism developed:
Ashkenazi and Sephardic
1. Ashkenazi from Germany, northern France
and eastern European countries
2. Sephardic from Spain, now inhabit most
southern European and Middle Eastern
Judaism in the USA
Jewish Immigration to the United States
In 19th century, primarily from
Germany, From 1880-1920, from
Eastern Europe, During the Great
Depression, from Germany
More than half of the Jews in the US
live in the northeastern region of the

In US, most Jews are Ashkenazi, so in
US, foods associated with Jews are
mainly German and Eastern European
in origin
In the minority are foods associated
with Sephardic Jews similar to those of
southern Europe and the Middle Eastern

Kashrut, the Jewish Dietary Laws

Kosher or kasher means fit and is the

popular term for the dietary laws
Glatt kosher: strictest kosher standards
All Orthodox and some Conservative Jews
follow the dietary laws, although
interpretations may differ

Examples of kosher food symbols

Jewish Dietary Laws
1. Which animals are permitted for food and
which are not
2. Method of slaughtering animals
3. Examination of the slaughtered animals
4. The parts of a permitted animal that are
Jewish Dietary Laws
5. The preparation of the meat
6. The law of meat and milk
7. Products of forbidden animals
Honey does not contain any parts of bee.
8. Examination for insects and worms

Jewish Religious Holidays Food
Sabbath - Challah bread, food prepared in
Rosh Hashanah. Religious New Year - Challah
bread, sweet foods, no sour or bitter foods
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement fasting with
light meal to break fast at end of day
Sukkot, Feast of Tabernacles -Thanksgiving
holiday lasting one week

Jewish Religious Holidays Food
Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights - holiday
foods cooked in oilExamples: latkes or
Purim abundance of foods
Passover - seder meal, Matzahunleavened
white cracker, no leavened foods
Shavout, Season of the Giving of the Torah -
Traditional Ashkenazi foods include blintzes,
kreplach, knishes
Fast days all religious fasts can be broken if
dangerous to a persons health.
Is considered to be the world s oldest
religion, and like Judaism, it is the basis
of other religions such as Buddhism.
Once popular throughout much of Asia,
most Hindus now live in India, its

Goals of Hinduism
A persons karma depends on how
previous lives were lived.
Brahmin is the one Supreme Being and
all various gods are partial
manifestations of him.
Principles: purity, self-control,
detachment, truth, nonviolence.
Four castes: the principal of spiritual
progression and culture.
Hindu Dietary practices
In general, Hindus avoid foods that are
believed to hamper the development of
the body or mental abilities.
Dietary restrictions and attitudes vary
among the castes.
The Laws of Manu (dating from the 4 th
century C.E) originally said that there is no
sin to eating meat or drinking alcohol but
that abstinence from these is better .
Many Hindus are vegetarians.
They adhere to the concept of ahimsa,
avoiding the infliction of pain on an animal by
not eating meat.
The cow is considered sacred and is not to be
killed or eaten : Products of the living cow are
both pure and can purify other products.
Pork is usually avoided as well ; many other
animals are also rejected.

Pious Hindus may also abstain from
alcoholic beverages
In reality, Hindus exercise personal
choice regarding food taboos
Purity and pollution are intertwined in
food customsPollution is the opposite
of purity and should be avoided; water
is the most common method of
Rejected food
Numerous birds (e.g. crows, doves, domesticated fowl,
ducks, flamingos, parrots, vultures and woodpeckers)
Fish with ugly forms
Avoided food
Foods prepared by certain groups of people (e.g.
actors, artists, carpenters, cobblers, doctors, eunuchs,
innkeepers, musicians, prostitutes liars, spies and
Foods that have been contaminated by a person
sneezing or through contact with a human foot,
clothing, animals or birds
Milk from an animal that has recently given birth
Water from the bottom of a boat
Garlic, turnips, onions, leeks, mushrooms , and red-
hued foods (tomatoes and red lentils)
Hindu Feast Days
Hindu calendar has 18 major festivals every
Examples :
Holi : one of the gayest and most colorful of the Hindu
festivals. It is traditional for Indians to throw colored
water or powder at passersby during this holiday.
Dusshera : 10-day celebration in late September or
early October
Divali : celebrated throughout India in November,
marks the darkest night of the year, when souls return
to Earth and must be shown the way by the lights in
the house.
Feasting includes sharing food among
the population
Poor get to share in the food

Hindu Fast Days

In India, fasting practices vary

according to ones caste, family, age,
sex, and degree of orthodoxy.
Fasting may mean eating no food at all
or abstaining from only specific foods or
It is rare for an individual to go without
any food at all, because Hinduism has
numerous fast days.
Fast days
Fast days in the Hindu calendar :
1st day of the new and full moon of each lunar
10th and 11th days of each month
Feast of Sivaratri
9th day of the lunar month Cheitra
8th day of Sravana
Days of eclipses, equinoxes, solstices, and
conjunction of planets
Anniversary of the death of ones father or mother

Originated in India as a revolt against Hinduism
Many Hindu concepts were retained including
reincarnation, karma and enlightenment through
right living
Caste distinctions are not a part of Buddhism
Numerous sects of Buddhism in India, China,
Japan, Korea, Tibet, Mongolia

Goal of Buddhism

Goal is to reach nirvanaa state of calm

insight, passionlessness and wisdom
Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold
Path are the basic teachings of Buddha and
specify how to live life
Buddha's teachings have been extended into
a practical code of conduct
Monks practice simplicity and mediation,
while also giving up personal possessions

Buddhist Dietary Practices
Buddhist dietary restrictions vary
considerably depending on the sect and
Buddhist doctrine forbids the taking of
life, therefore :
many followers are lacto-ovo-vegetarians
(eating dairy products and eggs but no
some eat fish
others abstain only from beef
Buddhist Feasts
Buddhist festivals vary according to
From July to October, Buddhist monks
are directed to remain in retreat and
meditate, coinciding with the rainy
season and the sprouting of rice in the
Theravada Buddhists honor the
Buddha on a single holiday called
Vesak, celebrated during April or May.
Buddhist Fasts
Buddhist monks may fast twice a
month, on the days of the new and full
Do not eat any solid food after noon.

Type of religion Practice or restriction Rationale

Islam Pork, improper slaughtered Eating is for good health

animals, blood and blood Failure to eat correctly
products prohibited Alcohol minimizes spiritual
prohibited Fasting from all awareness Fasting has a
food and drink during specific cleansing effect of evil
periods elements
Roman Meat restricted on certain Restrictions are consistent
Catholicism days Fasting practiced with specified days of the
church year
Eastern Orthodox Restrictions on Meat and Observance of Holy Days
Christianity Fish Fasting Selectively includes fasting and
restrictions to increase
spiritual progress
Protestants Few restrictions of food or God made all animal and
fasting observations natural products for
Moderation in eating, humans' enjoyment
drinking, and exercise is Gluttony and drunkenness
promoted are sins to be controlled
Type of religion Practice or restriction Rationale
Judaism Pork and shellfish Land animals that do
prohibited Meat and not have cloven hooves
dairy at same meal and that do not chew
prohibited Leavened their cud are forbidden
food restricted Fasting as unclean (e.g., hare,
practiced pig, camel) Kosher
process is based upon
the Torah
Hinduism Beef prohibited All Cow is sacred and can't
other meat and fish be eaten, but products
restricted or avoided of the "sacred" cow are
Alcohol avoided pure and desirable
Numerous fasting days Fasting promotes
spiritual growth
Buddhism Refrain from meat, Natural foods of the
vegetarian diet is earth are considered
desirable Moderation in most pure Monks avoid
all foods Fasting all solid food after noon
required of monks