Good Friday, Easter and Palm Sunday are some of the most important days for Christians because they are associated with the crucifixion of Jesus and His subsequent coming back to life on the third day after being killed. Many Christians consider this ‘Holy Week’ comprising the three days even more important than Christmas.
Here are 6 things that you should know about the origin and celebrations of Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter.
1. Good Friday was the day Jesus was crucified and Easter was the day he rose from dead.
Good Friday is celebrated to commemorate the crucifixion of the central figure of Christianity, Jesus Christ. The Sunday prior to Good Friday is known as Palm Sunday and the Sunday after Good Friday is called Easter. Palm Sunday is observed in remembrance of the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem riding on a donkey, fulfilling an ancient Jewish prophesy which said that the promised king of the Jews would arrive in such a fashion. People thus rush to him and laid their garments and leaves at the feet of the donkey. Easter is celebrated to remember the rising of Jesus from dead, which proved that He was exactly what He claimed to be, thus establishing the foundation of Christian faith.
2. The exact reason behind the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
There is a general perception among a large number of people that the reason Jesus was crucified was that he was becoming increasingly popular, influential and thus a threat for the Pharisees and the Roman Empire within less than three years. While this is largely correct, the exact reason for which Jesus was crucified on that fateful Friday was based on the single charge that He had called Himself the son of God, thus equaling Himself with God. He was accused of blasphemy. Besides that, there were many other charges that were levied against Him but all were found to be not trustworthy by Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor who was handling the case of Jesus. One of those charges was that Jesus had called himself the king of the Jews. Thus, on the cross above the head of Jesus was nailed a plate over which was written ‘INRI’ meaning ‘Jesus the Nazarene, king of the Jews’. He was also made to wear a crown of thorns.
3. Why Good Friday is called ‘Good’ Friday when Jesus was killed on that day?
The name Good Friday, which is the day when Jesus was crucified and killed, sounds like an improper name at a cursory look to non-Christians and even to many Christians, but according to theologians and a theory, it is called so because it was the day when Jesus paid for the sins of humanity with his life, fulfilling the purpose of his birth and ultimately the death led to his resurrection, which was the best thing to happen that day. According to other theories, it was originally called ‘God’s Friday’ or even ‘Holy Friday’ but eventually came to be known as Good Friday.
4. The celebration of Good Friday is much older than the Celebration of Christmas.
Good Friday is believed to be one of the oldest of Christian festivals and is even considered to be older than Christmas. According to some sources, it is believed that Christians have been observing Good Friday since 100 AD while the first recorded Christmas was celebrated in the year 336 AD during the time of Emperor Constantine and it was only after a few years after that that December 25 was officially declared to be observed as the birthday of Jesus by Pope Julius I. One of the reasons for that could be that Bible nowhere declares the exact day or month or even year of Jesus Birth, but it is very specific about the day of Crucifixion of Jesus as it coincided with the Jewish festival of Passover.
5. Was Jesus Crucified on Wednesday, Thursday or Saturday?
While majority of the Christians believe that it was on Friday that Jesus was killed and buried and He rose again on Sunday, there is also but two more section of Christians, though much less in numbers, who believe that Jesus was actually killed on Wednesday or Thursday because Jesus had Himself prophesized that He would be in the grave for three days and three nights in Matthew 12:40. However, the period of 72 hours wouldn’t be completed if He had died on Friday and rose on Sunday while the math would somehow make sense if He had died on Wednesday or Thursday. The majority, nevertheless, reject the claim as according to Jewish customs counting of days is done inclusively, that is, the day Jesus was crucified was counted as first day, the day He rose was counted as third day. It was never about precisely 72 hours.
6. Easter was actually a pagan tradition that was fused into Christianity.
Much like Christmas which is believed to be the successor of ancient pagan festival of Saturnalia celebrated in the honour of god Saturn in ancient Rome in the month of December each year, Easter too is often seen very much associated with an ancient pagan spring festival of Anglo-Saxon England celebrated in the honour of goddess Eostre to commemorate the spring equinox and which had a rather different day for celebration instead of when it is celebrated presently. It was only in the year 325 AD that Council of Nicaea decided that Easter should fall on the Sunday following the first full moon after spring equinox, thus coinciding with the resurrection of Christ. Additionally, Easter bunnies and Easter eggs have nothing to do with resurrection of Jesus and thus many Christians look down upon these and consider them commercialization of the day.