The final week of Jesus Christ's life before crucifixion is celebrated as the holy week. Sculptors say that, Friday in the holy week is the day Lord Jesus was made to carry a cross and was crucified on it. This day came to be observed as the Good Friday or Great Friday by Christians around the world. People observe this day by mourning, fasting, reciting hymns and praying. The tradition, customs and celebration of Good Friday is very much distinct from that of any other holy day or festival. All other festivals including Easter and Christmas are celebrated by preparing tasty treats and enjoying with friends and family, while Good Friday is observed soberly and is a day of mourning, austerity and silence.
The Good Friday ritual is different from any other Friday service, it is a somber and lengthy service and the pulpit and altar of the church is kept bare and there is no mass on Good Friday. No candles and lights are used in the church during the service and the church and cross is draped in dark cloth. The priest and the believers dress in black on this day. The service on this day may last up to three in the afternoon, the time Christ died. The priest read the passage from gospel about the seven last words of Jesus during the three hour service of Good Friday. There is a custom of venerating the wooden cross before the Good Friday service to pay respect to the cross on which Jesus died. The devotees pay respect either by bowing in front of the cross or kissing it. The practice of venerating the cross is believed to have originated in Jerusalem in the seventh or eighth century.
The 'Station of the Cross" is an ancient Catholic tradition at the Good Friday service where paintings and banners are used to depict the final hours of Christ's life. The stations are scenes made on stone, wood, metal and they can be sculptured, carved or painted. It commemorates the path of Jesus Christ's life and each station represents a scene from his betrayal to death and arousal from dead. The participants move from station to station and recite prayer and feel the suffering and humiliation Christ underwent at each of the fourteen stations.
There is also a tradition of conducting the Good Friday procession. Thousand of devotees attend the processions and recites prayers and hymns. They carry cross and sculpture from the church through the streets and then back into the church. The white procession is observed in the morning with the first break of sunlight here everyone dresses in white and black procession is observed at dusk and everyone dresses in black. The most intense of all procession is observed in the island of Philippines. They retrace the final events in Jesus Christ's life and get themselves beaten, whipped and nailed to the cross. They pay respect to the crucifixion by stopping even the television and radio broadcast at three O' clock in the evening.
The Christians observe fast and abstinence on Good Friday. Some keep dawn to dusk fast while others limit their meal to one or two in the day. They limit the consumption of meat and eat vegetables and seafood on the day. It is a catholic tradition to eat fish instead of meat on Good Friday and every family prepare one or the other fish dishes. Eating warm Hot Cross Bun at breakfast time, right from the oven is an old Good Friday tradition followed up to now. Hot cross bun is sweet, spicy and fruity bread prepared from flour, butter, milk, dried fruits, sugar, honey and spices. A cross shaped is made on the bun by icing, sweetened fresh cream or a lighter colored dough. The cross shape made on the bun symbolizes the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Many other traditions are also associated with Good Friday. It is the day when everything is prepared and whitewashed for Easter. The Easter eggs are also prepared on the Good Friday. It is a practice to fly handmade kites made by crossing sticks on this holy day. This tradition is thought to raise Christ and cross above everything. During the reign of Edward III it was a custom to bless gold and silver rings by rubbing between fingers. These blessed rings were believed to have healing power against diseases like epilepsy. Queen Elizabeth abolished this practice during her reign.
The resurrection of Christ is celebrated three days later on Easter and this day too has a lot of traditions and practices associated with it. It is a day of hope, joy and celebration. People present colorful Easter eggs and Easter Bunny on this day and Easter egg hunts are also conducted for children in the neighborhood. All the Christians get together for the Easter morning service and pray together. On the day friends and family gets together and enjoy the day by having traditional lamb roast, chocolates, wine and Easter cakes. It is the most enjoyed celebration for children and the grownups.
The Good Friday customs and are similar but distinct in different part of the world. All the customs and practices are observed to pay respect to Lord Christ and feel the passion he underwent on his last day. This is the day Lord Christ was made to carry the burden of others sin and the people were assured an eternity in heaven.