The name may be derived from 'God's Friday' in the same way that good-bye is derived from 'God be with ye'. The simplest explanation is that the day is truly good because in Christ’s death, the barrier of sin between God and his people was broken through redemption by the death of Jesus Christ.
Other Names for Good Friday
The Anglo-Saxon name for Good Friday was Long Friday, due to the long fast imposed upon this day. The day is also known as Black Friday or Sorrowful Friday. In the Eastern orthodox Churches, it is known as the "Great Friday".
History of Good Friday
The Good Friday date is one of the oldest Christian holidays, with some sources saying that it has been observed since 100 AD. It was associated with fasting during the early years of its observance and was associated with the crucifixion around the 4th century AD.
A Public Holiday in Some Countries
Good Friday is a most holy day to remember Christ’s crucifixion before his rising from the dead on Easter Sunday. It is a public holiday in the UK, one of only two days when shops and businesses are closed, the other being Christmas Day. The same applies in Sweden, Denmark and Norway,
Good Friday is a public holiday in many countries with a strong Christian tradition ie Australia, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, the Caribbean countries, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Germany, Malta, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, the Philippines, Mexico and Singapore. Also in 11 of the United States of America.
Ireland, a predominantly Catholic country, prohibits all alcohol from being sold on Good Friday. Banks and public institutions are closed but it is not an official bank/public holiday.
The Service of Darkness/Tenebrae
The Service of Darkness, known as the Tenebrae is celebrated in some Western Churches. During this ceremony the lights in the church are slowly dimmed marking the darkness that covered Earth upon Christ’s death. The Tenebrae ends with a loud noise known as the strepitus. This loud noise is used as a symbol to mark several sounds that are noted in scripture. They are: Jesus’ final cries, the earthquake at his death, the shutting of his tomb and the second earthquake when he rises from the dead. The purpose of the Service of Darkness is to recreate the betrayal, abandonment and agony of the events leading up to, and the death of, Christ.
As Jesus faced death literally, he needed God's help to save him from the world. Jesus' words from the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" echo the human experience of seeking a reality beyond death (Matthew 27:46).
For Christians, Good Friday is a time to be with Jesus in his time of suffering and wait with him in hope of God's promise, eternal life to all who believe. The "good" in Good Friday reflects the Christian hope of resurrection and new life in Jesus, foreshadowing Easter Sunday, when Christians believe that God resurrected Jesus from the dead.
In the Lutheran Church from the 16th to 20th century, Good Friday was the most important holiday and abstention from all worldly works was expected. It was a prime day to receive the Eucharist but in the mid-20th century, this moved to Maundy Thursday.
Not on a Friday for All Churches
Baptist, Pentecostal and many non-denominational churches do not observe Good Friday, regarding it as a papist tradition, and observe the crucifixion on the Wednesday to coincide with the Jewish sacrifice of the Passover Lamb, the Lamb being Jesus for the Christians. A Wednesday crucifixion allowed Jesus to be in the tomb “for three days and three nights” (Matthew 12:40) rather than two nights if on a Friday. John’s Gospel gives Jesus’ death on Thursday.
Catholic Traditions on Good Friday
Good Friday is noted and celebrated in many different ways throughout the world. Catholics mark the day by attending church and reliving the fourteen Stations of the Cross although it is not a public holiday. The Stations of the Cross are areas throughout the church that show the events that took place leading up to, and including, Christ’s crucifixion, death and entombment. No mass is celebrated but churches are often draped in black eg in Belgium.
Another tradition is to venerate, or honour, the cross by kissing a crucifix. On Good Friday, the altar in the Catholic Church has no decorations and the candle, which always burns to note God’s presence, is unlit. This is the only day that God is considered not present in the church and the only day in the Catholic Church in which a mass is not celebrated.
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.
In Spain, it is another solemn day, part of "Semana Santa" (Holy Week).
Hot Cross Buns
In many English-speaking countries, it is traditional to eat warm 'hot cross buns' on Good Friday. Hot Cross Buns with their combination of spicy, sweet and fruity flavours have long been an Easter tradition.
Delia Smith’s Hot Cross Bun recipe
Hot Cross Bun recipe and other Easter treats for children
The pastry cross on top of the buns symbolises the cross that Jesus was killed on.
Hot Cross Buns nursery rhyme c.1798
Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!
One a penny two a penny - Hot cross buns
If you have no daughters, give them to your sons
One a penny two a penny - Hot cross buns
Hot Cross Bun Ceremony
At the London Pub, The Widow's Son, a Hot Cross Bun Ceremony takes place each Good Friday. In the early 19th century, a widow who lived on the site was expecting her sailor son back home for Easter and placed a hot cross bun ready for him on Good Friday. The son never returned, but undaunted the widow left the bun waiting for him and added a new bun each year. Successive landlords have kept the tradition going after the pub was opened.
It is traditional to eat fish on Good Friday instead of meat.
From the reign of Edward III to that of Mary Tudor, monarchs used to bless a plateful of gold and silver rings every Good Friday at the Chapel Royal, within St. James's Palace. By rubbing the rings between their fingers, the royal touch was believed to cure cramp and epilepsy. The custom was abolished during the reign of Elizabeth I.
Good Friday superstitions
There are a number of superstitions relating to Good Friday:
A child born on Good Friday and baptised on Easter Sunday has the gift of healing.
Many fishermen will not set out for catch on Good Friday.
Bread or cakes baked on this day will not go mouldy.
Eggs laid on Good Friday will never go bad.
The planting of crops is not advised on this day, as an old belief says that no iron should enter the ground (i.e. spade, fork etc.).
Hot cross buns baked on Good Friday were supposed to have magical powers. It is said that you could keep a hot cross bun which had been made on Good Friday for at least a year and it wouldn't go mouldy.
Hardened old hot cross buns are supposed to protect the house from fire
Sailors took hot cross buns to sea with them to prevent shipwreck.
A bun baked on Good Friday and left to get hard could be grated up and put in some warm milk to stop an upset tummy.
Having a hair cut on Good Friday will prevent toothaches the rest of the year.
No shedding of blood should take place and no work undertaken with hammer, nails or wood.
Try to arrange your affairs to die on Good Friday so that you are rewarded by going straight to heaven without spending any time in Purgatory.
Finally, there is a British superstition that laundry should never be washed on Good Friday, based on a folk legend that a washerwoman mocked Christ on his way to the crucifixion by either throwing dirty water over him or hitting him in the face with wet laundry.