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Good Friday

Many Christians around the world observe Good Friday on the Friday before Easter Sunday. It commemorates Jesus Christ’s Passion, crucifixion and death, which is told in the Christian bible. It is the day after Maundy Thursday.

Good Friday commemorates Jesus' death on the cross.

©iStockphoto.com/Richard Goerg

What do people do?

Many people in different countries celebrate the anniversary of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and death on the Friday before Easter Sunday.  This is an observance that involves people fasting and praying. Many church services are held in the afternoon, usually around noon or midday to 3pm, to remember the hours when Jesus hung on the cross. Many churches also observe the day by re-enacting the procession of the cross as in the ritual of the Stations of the Cross, which depicts the final hours of Jesus’ life. Processions are held in many countries such as India, Italy, Malta, the Philippines, and Spain.

Kites that are often handmade are flown in Bermuda on Good Friday to symbolize the cross that Jesus died on, as well as his ascension into heaven. This custom dates back to the 19th century. Churches in countries, such as Belgium and Mexico, are draped in black on Good Friday in memory of Jesus’ suffering on the cross. The day is solemn and a general air of sadness is felt in many towns and villages. Many Christians in Poland fast on dry bread and roasted potatoes. Egg decorating is also part of the Easter preparations in Poland and many other countries.

Public life

Good Friday is a public holiday in many countries including (but not exclusive to):

Good Friday is not a federal holiday in countries such as the United States, although it is a state holiday in some states, including Hawaii. Some people have a day off work on Good Friday in the Netherlands, while others work.

Background

There are many theories as to why the day that remembers Jesus’ death on the cross is known as Good Friday. One school of thought is that Good Friday stems from the words “God’s Friday”, while others interpret “good” in the sense of “observed as holy”. Many Orthodox Christians call the day Great Friday. The day is also known as Black Friday or Sorrowful Friday, as well as Long Friday.

The Good Friday date is one of the oldest Christian holidays, with some sources saying that it has been observed since 100 CE. It was associated with fasting during the early years of its observance and was associated with the crucifixion around the fourth century CE. The Easter date depends on the ecclesiastical approximation of the March equinox.

Symbols

Good Friday is celebrated in memory of Christ’s Passion, crucifixion and death. The most important Good Friday symbol is the crucifix, or cross, which represents the way in which Jesus died. Some crosses bear a figure of Christ. Other symbols of Good Friday include black cloth used to cover the cross, paintings and statues in churches and some homes to signify mourning. In addition, some people deliberately create a bare appearance in their homes and churches by removing all flowers and shiny objects.

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