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A collation is a small amount of food taken on fasting days.[1]

The term collation refers to one or two light meals allowed on days of fasting, especially in Western Christianity. Its purpose is to allow a believer to perform his/her duties while fasting throughout the day.[1]


The traditional Black Fast of Western Christianity, which was broken after sunset, did not permit a collation if strictly observed.[2][3] After the 14th century AD, taking a collation became a normative part of Christian fasting practices in many localities.[2][4] Water was not allowed to be consumed during the collation, but only during the main meal, which was taken after sunset.[5]

The consumption of a collation originally derives from the rule dating from the mid-6th century A.D. in Benedictine monasteries, that the usual evening meal was to be followed by the reading of excerpts from Collationes patrum in Scetica eremo[6] written by John Cassian in around 420 A.D.[7] However, according to the Rule of Saint Benedict, on days of fasting there would be no evening meal: Vespers was directly followed by the readings from the Collationes or the Lives of the Fathers, and then Compline.[8]

By the 9th century AD the strict rules about fasting in Western Christianity started to become more relaxed, as it became allowed to have a small amount of water in the evening on fast days.[9] Over the centuries, this eventually grew to apply to the indulgence of "a recognized quantity of solid food" allowed on days of fasting, with or without abstinence.[9][10][11] The evening collation came to be defined by the Catholic Church as being less than eight ounces of food.[12] In the 19th century, the allowance of another collation, called a frustulum, was introduced by the Catholic Church and is permitted to be eaten in the morning.[13]

Present day

At the present time, on Christian strict fasting days of Lent (Ash Wednesday and Good Friday), the Catholic Church prescribes "only one full meal a day, but does not prohibit taking some food in the morning and evening, observing — as far as quantity and quality are concerned — approved local custom.".[14] This is, in some places, interpreted as "one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal".[15]

Similarly, a Missouri Synod Lutheran publication delineating fasting guidelines states that "On fasting days, two ¼ meals are eaten, and one regular meal in the evening".[16] The Traditional Saint Augustine's Prayer Book: A Book of Devotion for Members of the Anglican Communion defines "Fasting, usually meaning not more than a light breakfast, one full meal, and one half meal, on the forty days of Lent."[17]

Other uses

The French court of Louis XIV used the term collation to refer to light meals in general. In British English today, a collation is likewise a light meal, offered to guests when there is insufficient time for fuller entertainment. It is often rendered cold collation in reference to the usual lack of hot or cooked food. The Polish word kolacja ("supper") is a derivation.[18]

In modern Italian, the two small meals are the prima colazione (breakfast) and seconda colazione (lunch). The word "colazione" itself in the general language now means "breakfast" (whereas the English "break their fast" for breakfast; lunch is pranzo in Italian).


  1. ^ a b Heuser, Herman Joseph (1938). The American Ecclesiastical Review;: A Monthly Publication for the Clergy. Catholic University of America Press. p. 108.
  2. ^ a b Ferm, Vergilius (1 June 1962). Encyclopedia of Religion. Philosophical Library. p. 79. ISBN 9780802204905. Gradually the black fast disappeared as the practice arose of taking a small breakfast and an evening collation on fast days.
  3. ^ Stravinskas, Peter M. J.; Shaw, Russell B. (1 September 1998). Our Sunday Visitor's Catholic Encyclopedia. Our Sunday Visitor. ISBN 9780879736699. The so-called black fast refers to a day or days of penance on which only one meal is allowed, and that in the evening. The prescription of this type of fast not only forbids the partaking of meats but also of all dairy products, such as eggs, butter, cheese and milk. Wine and other alcoholic beverages are forbidden as well. In short, only bread, water and vegetables form part of the diet for one following such a fast.
  4. ^ Franciscan Message, Volume 2. Franciscan Fathers. 1948. p. 282. The Black Fast continued until the tenth century when the custom of taking one daily meal was advanced to mid-afternoon, followed in the fourteenth century to mid-day. Shortly thereafter, an evening collation was permitted the faithful.
  5. ^ Butler, Alban (1839). The Moveable Feasts, Fasts, and Other Annual Observances of the Catholic Church. James Duffy. p. 155.
  6. ^ Lit. 'Conferences with the fathers of Scetis in the desert'), usually translated as Conferences with the Desert Fathers,)
  7. ^ Addis, William E.; Press, Aeterna (1961). A Catholic Dictionary. Aeterna Press. p. 699. St. Benedict in his rule requires his religious to assemble after supper and before compline and listen to "collations"—i.e. the Conferences (of Cassian), the Lives of the Fathers, or other edifying books which were then read aloud by one of their number.
  8. ^ St. Benedict. "Chapter XLII: That No One Speak after Compline". The Holy Rule of St. Benedict. Translated by Boniface Verheyen. (1949 ed.). Retrieved 8 March 2019. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)
  9. ^ a b "Lent", The Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 9 March 2019. "Still more material was the relaxation afforded by the introduction of "collation". This seems to have begun in the ninth century, when the Council of Aix la Chapelle sanctioned the concession, even in monastic houses, of a draught of water or other beverage in the evening to quench the thirst of those who were exhausted by the manual labor of the day. From this small beginning a much larger indulgence was gradually evolved. The principle of parvitas materiae, i.e., that a small quantity of nourishment which was not taken directly as a meal did not break the fast, was adopted by St. Thomas Aquinas and other theologians, and in the course of centuries a recognized quantity of solid food, which according to received authorities must not exceed eight ounces, has come to be permitted after the midday repast. As this evening drink, when first tolerated in the ninth-century monasteries, was taken at the hour at which the "Collationes" (Conferences) of Abbot Cassian were being read aloud to the brethren, this slight indulgence came to be known as a "collation", and the name has continued since."
  10. ^ Briggs, John H. Y. (1 November 2009). A Dictionary of European Baptist Life and Thought. Wipf & Stock Publishers. p. 201. ISBN 9781608991655.
  11. ^ Anglican Theological Review. Anglican Theological Review. 1952. p. 96. In practice, however, these fasts are relieved by "collations," or what might be called an occasional snack. "Abstinence" usually involves abstention from flesh meat. In Anglican 'usage, the terms fasting and abstinence have become synonymous, probably because traditional fast days have been days of abstinence as well.
  12. ^ Prange, Joel (24 January 1977). "A Study of Fasting in the Scriptures and the Life of the Church" (PDF). Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. p. 5. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  13. ^ Foley, Anthony (26 February 2021). "The history of Lent and fasting in the Church". Our Lady's Blue Army. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  14. ^ "Apostolic Constitution Paenitemini". Holy See. 1966. Retrieved 22 Feb 2023.
  15. ^ "Fast & Abstinence". USCCB. 2018. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  16. ^ "Fasting Guidelines" (PDF). Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. 2016. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 March 2018. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  17. ^ Gavitt, Loren Nichols (1991). Traditional Saint Augustine's Prayer Book: A Book of Devotion for Members of the Anglican Communion. Holy Cross Publications.
  18. ^ Wojnarowski, Veronica (2014). "Speaking Polish-Piece of Cake" (PDF). Polish Journey. 12: 4.

2 Annotations

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San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"COLLATION was a light meal served cold with an emphasis on sweets. In the 16th century it was part of the French court. Themes often centered around classical mythology or allegories. In 1571 at a feast honoring Elizabeth of Austria, the new bride of Charles IX, the dinner was followed by dancing. After dancing a collation was served with preserves, sweet biscuits, fruits, marzipan, sugar paste formed into meats and fish, with six large sugar sculptures of Minerva bringing peace to Athens."

This quote is taken from 'Some Sweet Terms' by Elise Fleming.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.



  • Apr