Good Friday

By Jacopo Tintoretto, Crucifixion

Friday before Easter

Marking the day of the crucifixion of Jesus, Good Friday or Long Friday commemorates the culmination of the life of Jesus and his act of dying in place of those who believe in him. It is a day of note within the British calendar.

Traditional church services would last three hours to line up with the three hours of agony Jesus experienced on the cross, where the church would be lit by a single candle. The passion story would be told, with congregations following the stations of the cross either around the church itself, or statues outside and in the grounds. The seven sayings of Jesus from the cross—known as the words of forgiveness, salvation, relationship, abandonment, distress, triumph, and reunion—would be central to services.

Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs. With one or two a penny hot cross buns.

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Good Friday was a fast day, and so historically only one meal could be consumed along with two collations, which could not equal or be greater than half a meal. As Good Friday marks the end of Lent, custom holds that a hot cross bun should be eaten as one of these collations. Hot cross buns are sweet spiced buns containing dried fruit with a cross marked upon the top. The cross represents the death of Jesus, the spices the preservation of his body, and the dried fruits a reminder that Lent has passed and indulgence can begin again. Folklore commonly associated with hot cross buns includes the idea that they protect the bearer throughout the year, including from shipwreck at sea and from sickness on land. It was said that a hot cross bun baked on Good Friday would not rot or grow mould but should be hung in the kitchen to prevent fires, and that serving some of it to a sick person during the year would restore them to good health.

Good Friday was commonly the most sacred day of the year, and so no work was permitted, and no horses could race. In Britain it is still a public holiday, though betting is now allowed and many businesses remain open. Hot cross buns are as popular as ever. Though many of the folkloric elements and religious customs have died out, the day is predominantly noted by churches holding services.

Jacopo Tintoretto, Crucifixion
Jacopo Tintoretto, Crucifixion, Public Domain
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