Good Friday, also known as Holy Friday, is celebrated on the Friday before Easter and commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
It is a holiday in 11 States. Even though it is not an official US holiday, stock markets, businesses, schools, and colleges are closed, and only essential services run.
What Is Good Friday
It is stated in the Bible that Jesus had his last meal, also known as The Last Supper, with his disciples just before the Passover Festival was to be celebrated.
The following day Jesus was put on trial, crucified, and buried.
Good Friday is the day in Holy Week when this is remembered and observed.
Good Friday, like all the days in the Holy week, is a moveable feast and dates change each year depending on the liturgical calendar.
It does however always fall somewhere between March 20 and April 23.
The date on which to observe Jesus' death and resurrection has not always been the same.
Up until the 4th century, His Last Supper, Death, and Resurrection were all celebrated together on one day.
Since then, however, his last supper has been remembered on Maundy Thursday, and those observances have been moveable.
What Is 'Good' about Good Friday
As a day that celebrates death and sacrifice, many wonder what is so “good” about Good Friday and what the meaning of the day's name is.
Initially, this was a day for sorrow, repentance, and fasting, and it was even known in some places as “sorrowful Friday”.
No one is certain of the origins of the term “Good Friday”. Some believe it is simply a misspelling of “God's Friday” that was altered over the years.
Others think that it is a good day because it is holy, like what happened to Jesus after his death.
In fact, the US Catholic School Text argues that Good Friday gained its name because Jesus' death showed his great love for Men, and how he was willing to die to give Man his blessings.
The Oxford English Dictionary explains that “good” is merely a word used by the Catholic church to mean a day of religious observance.
The first record of the usage of the term “Good Friday” is in a book from 1290 named The South English Legendary.
The Story of Good Friday
After being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had to undergo trials in the morning.
Three Jewish priests, and three Roman priests, among them Pontius Pilate and Herod were there to confront him.
Although Pilate wanted to spare Jesus's life and only have him beaten, the others thought he deserved a stronger punishment, so he was sentenced to be crucified.
Ridiculed by soldiers, he was made to wear a purple robe and a crown of thorns, and on his cross, the words “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” were engraved.
He was then made to carry his cross up to the place where he was to be crucified and eventually died. Christians believe this was to save everyone from their sins.
How People Remember This Day
The remembrance of Good Friday has changed over the centuries however many people still remember the occasion by attending church services.
This is not necessarily a mass, sometimes it is a liturgy where Bible passages related to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ are read.
The service includes the reading of the Gospel Passion narrative, the adoration of the cross, and the communion.
In America, these services can last up to three hours. Quite often there will be no organ or music playing, and they will drape the cross with black material to represent death, and the altar is bare.
People may choose to mark Good Friday in ways other than church services. In some parts of the country, there are also processions where an actor might play the part of Jesus and carry a cross through the streets.
The Catholic Church officially calls this a 'Way of the Cross procession.
Click here to learn more about Holy Week and the other special days that lead up to Easter.