Lent is the time of fast and self-denial, and its somberness culminates with Good Friday, which commemorates the death of Jesus Christ. It falls during the Holy Week, and is succeeded by Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. Friday is the day of mourning and, among Catholics, meat cannot be eaten. There are other names for Good Friday that may be less antonymous with its dark tone: Holy-, Easter-, Black-, or Sorrowful Friday.
The holiday is celebrated on the week of Easter, which is a movable feast counted differently in Eastern and Western Christianity. For the latter religious faction, it is the Sunday after the first full moon between March 20 and the end of April. This is the date that all Anglophone countries observe; devout Christians believe that before life in spring can bloom with joy, the ritual of Jesus’ death and resurrection must occur during the Holy weekend.
Since Good Friday is a holiday of sadness, many scholars have wondered about its name; the two main theories are that “good” is either an adjective corrupt from “God,” or bearing the archaic meaning of “holy, pious”. Good Friday belongs to the Easter weekend, which is one of the oldest Christian observances, allegedly dating back to the year 100 A.D. It commemorates the last moments in the life of Jesus, subsequent to his triumphant arrival to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday. Prior to 4th century A.D., there was only one observance that encompassed all events in Christ’s life listed above, including his resurrection. First masses on Good Friday were held by the end of the Middle Ages, but their characteristic elements have not changed much since. These church services have always taken place on or before 3 p.m., which is the alleged hour of Jesus’ death. A notable event connected to the observance of Good Friday occurred in Indiana in 1999: during the Bridenbaugh v. O'Bannon case, the court decided that the employee who sued the state governor for establishing the holiday as a free day is right to do so as long as the governor’s motivation was by no means secular.
There are not many customs associated with Good Friday, since the holiday has never been highly secularized and has little to do with folklore. Nevertheless, some differences might be traced between the Protestant and Catholic Christianity. While Catholics lead long vigils with praying the rosary, North American churches hold the Three Hour Service. The Anglican Communion is based on The Book of Common Prayer, where it is stated that on Good Friday church attendants shall consume wine and bread that were consecrated the preceding Thursday. Moreover, Lutherans have popularized the listening of St Matthew Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach on Good Friday. In the second half of the 20th century, Protestants have adopted some Catholic traditions: they began to drape the cross and left out the organ during the mass. The main symbols of the holiday are the crucifix and Christ’s body and blood.
Good Friday is a legal holiday in the UK, Canada (in Quebec it is interchangeable with Easter Monday), Australia, New Zealand and particular states of America: Connecticut, Hawaii, Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas, Louisiana, Indiana, Florida, New Jersey, Delaware, North Dakota and Carolina. Oddly enough, the predominantly Catholic Republic of Ireland does not observe Good Friday as a day off. Nevertheless, even in places where it is not publicly observed, many employees choose to have a half-holiday on that day. Good Friday is part of the Easter commemoration and an immensely important day for the Christian belief.