How to Observe Good Friday

How to Observe Good Friday
Good Friday, preceding Easter Sunday, is a somber day during the Holy Week of Lent. The history of Good Friday has an important role to play in the way it is observed.
CelebrationJoy Staff
Debate
Many religious scholars and medical experts say that, during the Crucifixion, nails were driven into the wrists of Jesus, and not the palms as widely believed and portrayed. They point out that the palms would not be able to hold his weight for the 6 hours that he was on the cross.

Good Friday is also known as Holy Friday, Great Friday, Black Friday, and Easter Friday. The day of Good Friday is observed by Christians all around the world to commemorate the suffering and Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The Friday preceding Easter Sunday is observed as Good Friday. It falls within the Holy Week of Lenten, the traditional time for fasting and penance. Good Friday is observed in the memory of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.

Prayer and Service
People attend Good Friday services which are the celebrations of Christ's Passion. The celebrations conventionally start at noon and continue till 6 pm. However, in some churches, the celebrations start at 3 pm, as it is around that time that Jesus died on the cross. In some Protestant churches, the services are held in the dark. However, these days, the services have been moved to the latter part of the day as a matter of convenience for everyone to attend.

The traditional Good Friday service has a series of Scripture reading, followed by a short homily, and time set aside for meditation and prayer. The homily is often based on the Seven Last Words of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel traditions. It is a tradition to empty the holy water stoup on this day to prepare for the blessing of the water during the Easter Vigil. According to tradition, on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, till the Easter Vigil, no church bells ring. In some churches, the candles are extinguished one by one, and the service ends in darkness, with the last candle being carried out of the sanctuary that symbolizes the death of Jesus Christ. At the end of the service, there may be a loud noise that symbolizes the closing of Christ's tomb.

Often, the Passion of Christ is enacted on this day. However, in some churches, services are simple and solemn, and the day is spent in prayer. The biblical account of the crucifixion is read together in most churches. Depending on the traditions followed in the church, there may be Stations of the Cross along with the fourteen plaques displayed on the interior walls of the church. These plaques have a depiction of the final hours of Christ's life. Orthodox Christians usually have a reenactment of the burial of Jesus, while many Protestant churches conduct their service program in the dark. The Holy Rosary is an excellent prayer for this day.

Symbolism
One of the traditions is to cover all the crosses, statues, and pictures in black, which symbolizes mourning for the death of Christ on the cross. Mostly, no candles are lit on this day, but the tradition may differ from one church to another. Some Christians even wear black colored clothes throughout the day as a mark of penance and mourning. Some churches encourage followers to remain somber and reflective during the sacred hours, especially when Jesus Christ was on the cross in the afternoon.

There may be some traditions which are practiced only in certain parts of the world or may be followed by a particular church alone. For example, there is a tradition to fly kites on Good Friday. It is said to be a symbol of raising the cross and Christ above everything.

Abstinence
On this day, most Christians choose to abstain from meat, while others choose to fast altogether. The traditional food on this day depends on the country one comes from, and the practice that has been followed in the family. Some people choose to start their day with hot-cross buns. These buns have a combination of sweet, spicy, and fruity flavors. They have a cross branded on top that reminds all followers that Jesus was crucified and killed on the cross.

A traditional Good Friday meal does not contain any form of meat. However, in some countries, there is a tradition of eating fish on the day. Normally, one full meal (although smaller as compared to a regular full meal) and two small meals (snack meals) can be partaken on throughout the day. However, there are people who may abstain from food altogether on this important day.

Charity and Almsgiving
In some churches, parishioners are encouraged to do charitable deeds on this day. Many people go about giving alms to the needy, and helping the underprivileged in any way that they can.

In a few parts of the world, Good Friday reenactments actually involve people who willingly get themselves nailed to a cross. To sum it up, Good Friday is a day to commemorate the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, by penance, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.