Christians and Catholics around the world are celebrating Holy Week, the final week of the Lenten season that culminates ofnEaster Sunday, March 31. The days of the final week each have their own label and most are self-explanatory. However, Friday, Good Friday to be exact, is different.
Have you ever wondered why the Friday before Easter is called Good Friday? If you are going by religious beliefs then this is not supposed to be a “good” Friday because the Bible states that Jesus Christ was crucified and died on the cross on a Friday.
Naming this specific day like this is a bit odd. There must be an explanation. The Baltimore Catechism states that this is because Lord Jesus Christ, by His death, showed his love for all men and paid for all their sins by His crucifixion. In this context, Christ’s sacrifice meant is it something “Good,” something “Holy.” Eastern Christians, Orthodox and Catholic, still call the day Great Friday or Holy Friday. In the Romance languages, it is called Holy Friday instead of Good Friday.
It can be taken as a very good explanation on how the day came to be called this way. However, it is to be noted that “Good Friday” is called as such only in the English language. In the Catholic Encyclopedia, the entry for the particular day states that it is not clear where the origin of the term “good” came from. Some believe that it came from the German phrase “Gottes Freitag,” which when translated into English means “God’s Friday.” It could also be from another German term, “Gute Freitag.” During the time of the Anglo-Saxons, which would be the region of Denmark today, it is called “Long Friday.”
Here is the twist. If the term was adopted from the German language, then Good Friday is the direct translation into English of “Gute Freitag.” But then the Germans refer to this holy day as “Karfreitag” that translates to Suffering or Sorrowful Friday.
The word “kar” is already obsolete and it is where the English word for “care” originated. “Care” here refers to the English words “woes” and “cares,” the German equivalent of “mourning,” ergo, Mourning Friday.
It is an interesting thought. Either way, if we take it as a “Mourning Friday,” then it is because it really is a day for mourning because Jesus died, which is a reality. If we take it as “God’s Friday” then it is because after all the tragedies and sacrifices, the greatest “good” came to be for all believers.
Interesting Good Friday traditions
While it is a day of mourning, of fasting and reflection for most believers, there are also very interesting traditions by which Good Friday is observed around the world. Here are some of them:
• In England it is a tradition to eat hot cross buns for breakfast on Good Friday.
• In Ireland, some restaurants and all pubs are closed to prevent the sale of alcohol.
• In Bermuda, people fly kites made of tissue paper, cloth and wood, to symbolize His ascension.
• India and the United States close their stock exchanges.
• The passion play in Oberammergau, Germany is one of the most famous. This is a vow made by the village folks when they were struck with the Black Plague in 1632.
• A re-enactment of the Crucifixion is done by the members of the Italian Catholic Community in Bensheim, Germany. Men dressed in sack clothes, their feet wrapped in burlap wound around their ankles with strings carry crosses during the procession.
• Catholics in Klaten, Indonesia re-enact the Crucifixion wearing their own traditional clothing.
• The life-sized icon of the Santísimo Cristo del Salvador is brought out during the Good Friday procession in Valencia, Spain.
• In San Pedro Cutud, Pampanga, in the Philippines, the re-enactment of the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ takes place yearly. The play ends with at least three penitents (there could be more) nailed to the cross. Two-inch long stainless steel nails soaked in alcohol are driven through their palms, and their feet are tied to the cross before the wooden cross is hoisted.
• At Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, thousands of devotees from around the world carry crosses as they participate in the Good Friday procession. An actor plays Jesus Christ during the procession.
• Re-enactments of Christ’s Passion and Death are also done in Gauhati, India, in Lagos, Nigeria, Berwick-upon-Tweed in England, Wonogiri in Central Java and many other places around the world.