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Orthodox Good Friday in the United States

Orthodox Christian churches in the United States generally observe Good Friday at a later date than the Good Friday date observed by many western churches. Good Friday focuses on Jesus Christ’s death, which is described in the Christian bible. The day is also known as Great Friday, Holy Friday, and Holy and Great Friday.

Is Orthodox Good Friday a Public Holiday?

Orthodox Good Friday is not a public holiday. Businesses have normal opening hours.

Many people of the Orthodox Christian faith remember Jesus' death on the cross on Great Friday.

©iStockphoto.com/paulgeor

What Do People Do?

Great Friday is a strict day of fasting for many Greek Orthodox Christians in the United States. Some Orthodox churches begin observing Holy Friday on Thursday night where the liturgy’s main feature is the reading of 12 sections from the gospels, all of which are accounts of Jesus Christ’s passion. Other churches may have a Good Friday liturgy in the evening.  Some priests remove icons of Jesus from crosses and wrap them in linen to reenact ancient burial rites.

Some Orthodox Bulgarian churches have special traditions, which include allowing people to pass under a table in the middle of the church and light a candle after the church bell rings. This ritual is believed to wash away one’s sins. Many families of the Orthodox Christian faith may spend time on Great Friday to decorate Easter eggs as part of the Easter preparations.

Public Life

Great Friday is not a federal public holiday in the United States. However parking conditions may be affected near churches where Great Friday liturgies are held, particularly in busy urban areas.

Background

Many Orthodox churches retained the Julian calendar after the Gregorian calendar was introduced in Europe in 1582. Therefore they often follow a different Easter date compared with many western churches. Easter holidays, such as Good Friday, are “moveable feasts” as these dates change according to calendar calculations.

There are different types of Orthodox churches that are well-established in the United States, including the Greek Hellenic Orthodox Church, the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America, and the Russian Orthodox Church. The Russian Orthodox Church in North America can be traced back to the late 18th century, where a Russian church was built on Kodiak Island in Alaska during that period.  Alaska was previously part of Russia until the United States bought the land. The number of Greek Orthodox churches grew as Greek immigration increased after the late 19th century in the United States.

Symbols

Many Orthodox Christian families prepare Easter eggs, which are beautifully decorated and often dyed red to symbolize the Jesus Christ’s blood.

About Orthodox Good Friday in other countries

Read more about Orthodox Good Friday.

Orthodox Good Friday Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday Type
2015FriApr 10Orthodox Good FridayOrthodox
2016FriApr 29Orthodox Good FridayOrthodox
2017FriApr 14Orthodox Good FridayOrthodox
2018FriApr 6Orthodox Good FridayOrthodox
2019FriApr 26Orthodox Good FridayOrthodox
2020FriApr 17Orthodox Good FridayOrthodox
2021FriApr 30Orthodox Good FridayOrthodox
2022FriApr 22Orthodox Good FridayOrthodox
2023FriApr 14Orthodox Good FridayOrthodox
2024FriMay 3Orthodox Good FridayOrthodox
2025FriApr 18Orthodox Good FridayOrthodox

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