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The start of Easter, a bank holiday and an important day in the Christian faith: What is Good Friday?

  • What is celebrated on Good Friday?
  • Why is the day called good?
  • What can you and can you not do on Good Friday, according to tradition?

Today is Good Friday, and the start of the four-day Easter weekend.

But where does it come from, what's so good about it and how does it relate to Easter?

On Sunday, there will be an article about where the traditions of Easter came from and why the date is different each year, as those things are mostly not linked to Christianity.

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Good Friday, however, is mostly recognised because of what the Christian bible claims happened on that day, and so you could see the two as being entirely different.

TL;DR Good Friday marks the day on which, according to the New Testament, Jesus was crucified.

Of course, there is far more to it than that.

Jesus had arrived in Jerusalem the previous Sunday (Palm Sunday) and had begun delivering his teachings. He was unpopular with both the Romans and the Jewish leaders because he claimed to be the son of God.

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After a lot of political manouvering, Judas Iscariot agreed to identify Jesus to the Romans in exchange for 30 pieces of silver.

Jesus was imprisoned and brought before Pontius Pilate in the morning under charges of subverting the nation and calling himself a king. Pilate could not understand at first why such a trivial matter had been brought to him and wanted to free Jesus. 

However, he was informed Jesus had been calling himself God's son as well, which made him dangerous to the balance of power in the city.

Pilate proclaimed Jesus to be innocent, but handed him over to the crowd claiming him a heretic to be executed. Pilate washed his hands to show he had no part on Jesus's condemnation, which is where the phrase, 'to wash your hands of,' comes from and essentially abandoned Jesus to keep the city from rioting and to hold onto his job.

Jesus was nailed to the cross while wearing a crown of thorns and according to three of the gospels darkness fell across the land during between midday and 3pm while Jesus slowly died.

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It's a bit of a morbid story, so why is the day known as Good Friday? Probably because of a spelling mistake!

It is thought that Good Friday is a corruption of God's Friday as it is called as such in other languages. German refers to the day as mourning Friday. English is the only language to call it Good Friday.

There are some weird things Christians aren't allowed to do on Good Friday. Laughing, or showing mirth is banned in some places, as everyone should be mourning. Lots of people can't eat meat on the day, and some fast for the entire day. It is forbidden to drink alcohol in some places, including in Ireland where most bars and restaurants will remain shut on the day. Also, bizarrely, the bible forbids horse racing, although in 2008 the UK passed a law that allowed betting shops to open if they wished.

In Christian teachings, Jesus is resurrected three days after his death, but if you check back here in just two days, on Easter Sunday, you can find out why the holiday changes date each year, what this all has to do with the movements of the sun and moon and where the name Easter comes from!

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