Appears in
Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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Fasting in its literal sense means giving up eating (see diet for more on this). More generally, it may mean abstaining from certain foods. In both senses, it is an almost universal practice, undertaken for various reasons but is more often than not connected with religion. The founding or leading figures in many major religions have been celebrated for, among other things, famous fasts; and all the religions stipulate or at least make provision for fasting at certain times or in certain circumstances.