Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his physical death at Calvary. The name Good refers to the goodness that comes to Christians as a result of the sacrifice.
The celebration of Good Friday occurs on the Friday before Easter Sunday.
Good Friday is, and has been for centuries, a day of fasting for Christians. This fasting takes the form of partaking of only one meal, smaller than a normal one, and one or two snacks during the day, and abstention from eating any meat that day.
In Roman Catholic and some Protestant Christian communities, the celebration of Good Friday is a community, rather than a private, undertaking.
During this day, the celebration of the Passion of the Lord, the recounting of the events leading to the crucifixion, takes precedence over everything else. The only sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church to be performed on Good Friday are Baptism (for anyone in emminent danger of death), Penance and the Annointing of the sick.
Among Protestant denominations, from the 16th to the 20th Centuries, Lutherans celebrated the sacrament of the Eucharist on Good Friday. From the mid-1900s to the present day, the Lutherans celebrate the eucharist on Maunday Thursday instead of on Good Friday.
Many of the Protestant denominations hold interdenominational services together along with the "Lovefeast" on Good Friday.
It should be noted that not all of the Protestant denominations conduct services on this day, some seeing it as a Papist tradition. They therefore celebrate the Passion of the Lord on the Wednesday preceeding Easter Sunday.
During the 16th Century there was a custom in Great Britain that was called Creepinge to the Crosse. With their hair dishevelled, barefooted and in their worst garments, people men and women would make a pilgrimage to the local church, traveling on their knees, for the purpose of kissing the cross at the church's alter. In the Notes of the Northumberland Household Book it was noted that the usher was instructed to lay down a carpet for the King and Queen to "creepe to the cross upon." According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the custom is described as: At present, instead of creeping to the cross on hands and knees, three profound double genuflexions are made before kissing the feet of the crucifix, and the sacred ministers remove their shoes when performing the ceremony.
In the year 1733 Poor Robin's Almanack presented the verses:
Good friday comes this month, the old woman runs
With one or two a penny hot cross buns,
Whose virtue is, if you believe what's said,
They'll not grow mouldy like the common bread.
The Good Friday hot cross buns were a sort of sweet bread comprised of fine flour and honey. They were not actually intended to be eaten. Instead, the Good Friday hot cross buns were produced on one Good Friday, and then carefully put into storage for use during the following year's Good Friday. The buns would then be used for medicinal purposes. A small portion of a bun would be grated off into a bowl of water, the solution of which was used for a variety of maladies, especially diarrhea.
Notwithstanding the use of sweet bread 'buns' for medicinal purposes, hot cross buns, so called because bakers would cut a small "X" in the top before baking them, were popular throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries.