Why is Good Friday called Good Friday? How the day got its name

Here's where the tradition comes from...

Three Christina crosses with a sunset behind
(Image credit: Getty Images)

As Easter weekend arrives, many want to know why Good Friday is called Good Friday...

Easter is almost here, which means it's time to work out which shops are open on Good Friday, what day you should give Easter eggs and get your head around other Easter food traditions.

Good Friday, which this years falls on April 7, marks the day when Jesus died on the cross. It's hard to see what could be 'good' about the day Jesus died, which is why many people want to know why Good Friday is called Good Friday...

Why is Good Friday called Good Friday?

It's not known for certain how Good Friday got its name, because it has been celebrated for hundreds of years. But their are several theories as to where the name 'Good Friday' came from.

Many historians believe that the word 'good' is used in the context of something that is holy - the meaning of the original Old English word. The Oxford English Dictionary explains that in the context of Good Friday, 'good' refers to "a day or season observed as holy by the church", hence the greeting "good tide" at Christmas or on Shrove Tuesday.

A statue of Christ on the cross

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Meanwhile, some Christians believe that the day is called Good Friday because in many ways it was a 'good' day. It led to the resurrection of Jesus (on Easter Sunday), and he died so that everyone could be forgiven for their sins.

Where did the tradition of Good Friday come from?

Good Friday is part of the Easter story, and marks the day that Jesus died on the cross. It is on this day that Christians reflect on the event of Jesus' crucifixion.

The Easter story says that when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem he was betrayed by one of his disciples - Judas - who told the Romans where they could find Jesus and arrest him.

On the morning of Good Friday, Jesus was made to carry a heavy wooden cross on his back all the way through the city to the place he was to be killed, wearing a crown of thorns. He was then nailed to the cross and crucified.

Christians believe that when Jesus was executed he sacrificed his own life so that everyone can be forgiven for their sins. This is why Good Friday is one of the most important dates in the Christian calendar.

How is Good Friday celebrated?

On Good Friday, special services are held in churches to remember the crucifixion of Jesus, with some re-enactments of the event taking place too.

 Some Christians practice fasting and abstinence as well, believing that this will help empty their bodies so that they can be filled with the Holy Spirit.

This is also part of lent - which runs from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday - a time when Christians and non-Christians alike give up a particular treat or bad habit 'for Lent'. 

It's also become traditional to eat fish on Good Friday. This is because Jesus sacrificed his own flesh on Good Friday, so traditionally Catholics abstain from eating meaty flesh on this day.

Hot cross buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday too. The cross on them represents the cross Jesus was crucified upon.

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Ellie Hutchings
Family News Editor

Ellie is GoodtoKnow’s Family News Editor and covers all the latest trends in the parenting world - from relationship advice and baby names to wellbeing and self-care ideas for busy mums. Ellie is also an NCTJ-qualified journalist and has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University. Previously, Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies. When she’s not got her nose in a book, you’ll probably find Ellie jogging around her local park, indulging in an insta-worthy restaurant, or watching Netflix’s newest true crime documentary.