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Meaning behind the name of Good Friday – the day Jesus was crucified

The most important weekend of the Christian calendar has arrived as millions celebrate Easter.

Supermarket shelves are always awash with chocolate eggs and other sweet treats, but the religious story behind Easter, Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, is far more harrowing.

The first day of the Easter weekend is Good Friday, traditionally a bank holiday in the UK.

Good Friday marks the day Jesus died on the cross.

Of course, two days later, Easter Sunday, represents the day Jesus rose from the dead and went to Heaven.

So why is the Friday, the day Jesus died, called Good?

If you look at it on face value, there’s not much that’s good about a man being nailed to a cross, made to wear a crown of thorns and left to die.

It’s the day Lent has been leading up to as Christians remember how Jesus was flogged before having to carry his own cross to a hillside. Once there he was crucified alongside two criminals, despite doing nothing wrong.

(Image: Getty)

The original definition for the word “good” was that it “designates a day on (or sometimes a season in) which religious observance is held”.

The Oxford England Dictionary says “good” refers to a day or season observed as holy by the church.

So, in this case, good means holy.

It’s also why people say “good tide” at Christmas and on Shrove Tuesday.

Another suggestion is that the name Good Friday comes from “God’s Friday” being corrupted over time. The earliest use is “guode friday” from 1290.

Easter season

Easter is seen as the most important Christian festival – yes, more important than Christmas – because it reaffirms their faith.

The season begins on Ash Wednesday – the first day of Lent. Lent lasts for 40 days, leaving out the six Sundays before Easter, and is a time when Christians give up a favourite food or vice. This is to remember Jesus’ time in the wilderness where he fasted for 40 days despite temptation.

He arrived in Jerusalem on what is known as Palm Sunday – the Sunday before Easter.

Crucifixion in the Museum of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, Italy

Crucifixion in the Museum of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, Italy (Image: Getty)

A few days later he had the Last Supper with his 12 disciples on what is now known as Maundy Thursday.

2,000 years ago it was the time of Passover, a Jewish celebration. Because of that Jesus and his disciples were eating together in what turned out to be Jesus’ last meal.

His actions there have also led to what is now known as Communion, where he offered bread and wine saying they were his body and blood. He also commanded his disciples to think of him whenever they had bread and wine together after he had died.

The Bible says that after his death on Good Friday, Jesus’ body was taken to a rock-cut tomb in Jerusalem belonging to Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy Jew and follower of Jesus.

On the third day (marked by Easter Sunday), he was found alive. God raised his son Jesus from the dead in an act that symbolises the defeat of death and the opening of Heaven and eternal life to everyone.

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