Good Friday 2011: Origins, Observances And Fasting Rules
Good Friday is the Christian commemoration of Jesus' Passion story; specifically his betrayal, trial and crucifixion that are described in the Christian gospels. In the sequence of Holy Week, it follows the rituals marking the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday and precedes the celebration of Jesus' resurrection on Easter Sunday.
Since Jewish tradition dictates that Friday begins at sundown on Thursday, the events of Good Friday traditionally begin with the betrayal of Jesus by his apostle Judas in the garden of Gethsemane. He is subsequently brought before the Sanhedrin council, the Roman governor Pontius Pilate and King Herod of Galilee with the ultimate outcome being his condemnation to death by crucifixion.
The trial of Jesus and his crucifixion are described in varying detail by all four canonical Gospels, the Jewish historian Josephus and the Roman writer Tacitus. While the specific events and theological implications are widely disputed, the historicity of the occasion is widely accepted.
Good Friday church services generally revolve around the reading of the Gospel accounts of the Passion story. The Catholic liturgy for Good Friday also includes the distribution of the Eucharist that was consecrated during the Mass on Maundy Thursday and special veneration of the cross by inviting individuals to approach the altar and kiss the wood of the crucifix.
Many Christians also mark Good Friday by participating in or watching processions meant to replicate the journey that Jesus took through the streets of Jerusalem while carrying his cross to the site of his crucifixion at Calvary. Two of the largest and most famous of these occasions are Rome's Way of the Cross that leads to the Colosseum and is presided over by the Pope and the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem -- a procession along the traditionally marked route of Jesus that is attended by thousands of pilgrims each year.
Good Friday is also a day of strict fasting for Catholics and some other Christians. As with all the Fridays of Lent, Catholics are instructed to abstain from eating meat. As with Ash Wednesday, the fasting rules for Good Friday dictate that adherents should eat only one full meal with two smaller meals being permitted as long as no other food is consumed in the interim. The use of other meat-based products such as lard, chicken broth or dairy is not traditionally forbidden, although many individuals elect to make their Good Friday meals entirely vegetarian or vegan.
In many countries with strong Christian traditions such as those in Latin America, Good Friday is observed as a national holiday. Good Friday is not a federal holiday in the United States, but several states observe it as an official state holiday by closing government offices, courts and banks. Many private businesses also choose to close on Good Friday in addition to financial markets.