Good Friday UK

Good Friday UK

Good Friday is a Christian observance which commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It is part of Holy week and it is a public holiday throughout the UK.

Hot cross buns are a must on Good Friday.

©iStockphoto.com/Gingagi

Is Good Friday a Bank Holiday?

Good Friday is a bank holiday in the UK.

It is the day after Maundy Thursday and followed by Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, but these are not bank holidays. Easter Monday is a bank holiday in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales, but not in Scotland.

Two-Week School Break

The Easter school holiday in the UK is usually around two weeks long, and most schools break up on Good Friday or the day before. However, this varies locally.

Are Shops Open on Good Friday?

Most shops and supermarkets, restaurants, pubs, theatres, and cinemas are open on Good Friday. As Good Friday is a public holiday, most businesses and organizations are closed, although some stay open. Horse racing used to be banned in the UK on Good Friday, but this is no longer the case.

Is Alcohol Served as Usual?

In the past, alcohol sales were restricted during Easter all over the UK, but this is now only the case in Northern Ireland, where alcohol can only be served between 17:00 (5 pm) and 23:00 (11 pm) on Good Friday. On the days before and after, Maundy Thursday and Holy Saturday, the bars in Northern Ireland have to stop serving at midnight. In the neighboring Republic of Ireland, alcohol restrictions were lifted in 2018, after scrapping a 90-year-old law.

Many employees in the UK use some of their annual leave to extend the Easter bank holiday break. Bank holidays may also impact how benefits are paid, but this varies a lot from business to business.

Easter Bus Times and Traffic

There can be some unusual congestion on the roads because many take trips during the four-day Easter weekend, which starts on Good Friday. Buses, trains, and other public transport systems may run as usual or on a different timetable. British Rail generally schedules railway maintenance during the Easter week, which affects the schedules.

Fish and Chips for Tea

Many Catholics do not eat meat on Fridays, including on Good Friday. Even though most Christians in Britain belong to the Anglican Church of England, this custom has made it common to enjoy an ultra British dish, fish and chips, for tea (dinner) on Good Friday.

Hot Cross Buns

Whether you eat fish or meat for your main course, the most common thing on the Good Friday menu in the UK, are hot cross buns. While every family may have their traditional recipe for hot cross buns, they are all made from sweet yeast dough, with currants or other dried fruit and spices like cinnamon.

The top of the bun is decorated with a cross, which was originally made of dough or just a knife imprint. These days, the cross is usually made of yellow, white, or even chocolate frosting. Many split the buns in half, toast them, and spread them with butter, while others prefer to enjoy them as they are.

Gave Illegal Buns to the Poor

  • Hot cross buns!
    Hot cross buns!
    One a penny, two a penny,
    Hot cross buns!
  • If you have no daughters,
    give them to your sons.
    One a penny, two a penny,
    Hot cross buns!

Traditional
nursery rhyme

These popular buns were possibly enjoyed all year round in the past. However, in 1592, Queen Elizabeth I decreed that hot cross buns could only be sold on Good Friday, at Christmas, or for burials.

People still baked buns, mainly in their kitchens at home. If you were caught, the punishment was to give up all the baked goods to the poor.

There are several theories about the origin of hot cross buns. Some claim they are made in a Christian context, while others say they have pagan, Roman, or Saxon roots.

Chocolate Eggs

According to statista.com, 65% of Brits think of chocolate when asked about Easter, while only 12% think of Jesus. A staggering 80 million Easter eggs are sold every year in the UK, and the average child consumes 8 of them. 78% of parents buy Easter eggs for their kids, and 27% of parents admit to eating the chocolate intended for their kids before the traditional egg hunts on Easter Sunday.

Why Is Easter on Different Dates Every Year?

Easter is a moveable feast, and Good Friday falls on a different date every year. It is two days before Easter Sunday, which is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon on or after the March equinox, but never before March 22.

The Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church both follow the Gregorian Calendar and celebrate Easter on the same dates. A majority of Orthodox churches still follow the Julian Calendar and celebrate Orthodox Good Friday a little later in the spring most years.

Winter Skiing and Spring Gardening

As the date for Good Friday can vary from March 20 to April 23, the weather can be dramatically different from one Good Friday to the next. For Britons who stay at home, Good Friday is a day off work in spring. Some use the day to work in their gardens; others take advantage of the Easter weekend to travel. Some go to the Alps for a skiing holiday, while others prefer destinations like Spain or France to enjoy warmer temperatures.

Good Friday Procession in London

On Good Friday, there is a religious service called the Crucifixion on Victoria Street in London. This is an ecumenical service, meaning that it involves members from several different Christian denominations, and it is open to anyone. There is also a silent procession along Victoria Street, where a wooden cross is carried at the front, in the same way as in many other European cities. The most famous of these processions is the Way of the Cross in Rome, Italy. Tens of thousands of pilgrims from all over the world gather in the ancient city to watch the Pope lead a torchlit procession on Good Friday.

Why Is it Called “Good” Friday?

In Christianity, Good Friday is the day Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem. It is a day of mourning, and there are special services to commemorate the crucifixion and suffering of Jesus, also known as the Passion of Christ. In most Anglican churches, there are no flowers or decorations on Good Friday.

It may seem strange that a day of death and suffering is known as “Good” Friday, and there are a number of theories to explain why. The word “Good” may simply be a different spelling or rendering of “God,” or it may have been another, now lost, meaning of “holy.” Another theory is that the tragedy of the crucifixion of Jesus brought great “good” to his followers.

The Good Friday Agreement

On Good Friday, April 10, 1998, the Good Friday Agreement or Belfast Agreement was signed. This was a major step in the political process to end sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. A multi-party agreement by most of Northern Ireland’s political parties was signed, as well as an international agreement between the British and Irish governments.

About Good Friday in Other Countries

Read more about Good Friday.

Good Friday Observances

Year Weekday Date Name Holiday Type
2017 Fri 14 Apr Good Friday Bank Holiday
2018 Fri 30 Mar Good Friday Bank Holiday
2019 Fri 19 Apr Good Friday Bank Holiday
2020 Fri 10 Apr Good Friday Bank Holiday
2021 Fri 2 Apr Good Friday Bank Holiday
2022 Fri 15 Apr Good Friday Bank Holiday
2023 Fri 7 Apr Good Friday Bank Holiday
2024 Fri 29 Mar Good Friday Bank Holiday
2025 Fri 18 Apr Good Friday Bank Holiday
2026 Fri 3 Apr Good Friday Bank Holiday
2027 Fri 26 Mar Good Friday Bank Holiday

When is Good Friday?

Many countries observe Good Friday as a national holiday on the Friday before Easter. The day commemorates the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ.

Some countries observe the Orthodox calendar in which Good Friday may occur on a different date.

What is Good Friday?

The most important events in Christianity are the death and later resurrection of Jesus Christ, who Christians believe is the Son of God, and whose life and teachings are the foundation of Christianity.

After the last supper, Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, put on trial, sentenced to death. He was then tied and nailed by the wrists and feet to a large wooden cross and left to die. This is why the cross is used as a symbol of the Christian faith.

Good Friday is a day of mourning. During special Good Friday services Christians meditate on Jesus’s suffering and death on the cross, and what this means for their faith.

Why is it called ‘Good Friday’?

At first glance, it seems a strange name for a day that marked such a terrible event as a crucifixion, but when we look at the origin of the name it becomes clearer… or it would if there was one origin that people could agree on. As it stands, you can take your pick from the following:

  • Some say it comes from the use of “Good” as an adjective applied to the day, which is an Old English synonym for “holy.”
  • Others believe it stems from a corruption of the word “God,” in much the same way that “Good Bye” comes from the phrase “God be with ye.” So the name may be derived from ‘God’s Friday’.
  • Undoubtedly most Christians perceive the day as “good” because the message of Easter is of Christ’s victory over sin, death, and the devil. Indeed, the New Testament is also known as the Gospel, which is Greek for ‘Good News’.

Also, it also worth noting that this confusion over the name is mainly confined to Western European and North American Christians. Eastern Orthodox Christians call it “Great and Holy Friday. Around the rest of the world, it’s known as Holy Friday in most Latin nations, ‘Great Friday’ by the Slavic peoples, “Friday of Mourning” in Germany and “Long Friday” in Norway.

Good Friday Traditions

Many Church services are held in the afternoon, usually between noon to 3pm, to remember the hours when Jesus was crucified on the cross.

Some churches observe the day by re-enacting the process of the cross in the rituals of stations of the cross, which depicts the final hours of Jesus’ life. Other churches may participate in Veneration of the Cross, a short ceremony in which Christians kneel before the cross and affirm their faith.

In Jerusalem, Christians follow in Jesus’ footsteps and walk Via Dolorosa, the traditional path that led to the site of the crucifixion. Many who participate try to ritually bear the same weight Jesus did by carrying crosses on their backs.

Though it’s not a public holiday in the Vatican or Italy, the Pope will say a mass at the Vatican before leads an annual public prayer of the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum in Rome. A procession is then made to the Palatine Hill, accompanied by a huge cross covered in burning torches.

Alfombras in Central America

In some Central American countries, including Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, the streets are decorated with vividly hued designs along the route of Good Friday processions. The tradition of creating these “alfombras,” Spanish for carpet or rug, originated in Spain’s Andalusia region. The practice crossed the pond with missionaries more than 400 years ago. The patterns often depict religious or natural images, created from brightly coloured sawdust. Alfombras are not meant to endure. The patterns disappear beneath the feet of the marchers and spectators.

Hot Cross Buns

A traditional Good Friday treat in the UK, Canada and Australia. Only available at this time of year, these sweet buns are made from a yeast dough augmented with raisins, currants and sometimes a little citron. They’re decorated with a cross made of light frosting, two strips of plain dough, or just a knife imprint. The hot cross buns tradition is savoured by cultures around the world, going back to at least the 16th century when Queen Elizabeth I is said to have forbidden their sale except on Good Friday, Christmas or for burials. The last two occasions have fallen by the wayside: Once Good Friday is over, you’re unlikely to see the treats until next year.

 

Good Friday Traditions in the UK

In the UK, Lent is book-ended by pastries. The start is traditionally marked by making Pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, while the end is marked by Hot Cross Buns. These sweet spiced buns with currants or raisins have a cross made from shortcrust pastry and a sticky glaze on top. They are traditionally eaten on Good Friday, with the cross symbolising the cross on which Jesus was crucified.

On Good Friday every year, tens of thousands of Brits gather in Trafalgar Square, London to watch an open-air passion play depicting the crucifixion. The 90-minute production is completely free of charge – a gift to Londoners and visitors.

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