This year, it falls on Friday 7 April – it’s always two days before Easter Sunday, which means its position in the calendar moves from year to year.
It coincides with the Jewish festival of Passover, which this year runs from Friday 5 April until Saturday 13 April.
But what is the story behind the observance, and why is it called “Good Friday”? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is the story behind Good Friday?
Good Friday commemorates The Passion – the biblical story of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ at Calvary – before his resurrection is celebrated on Easter Sunday.
Although the precise date of Christ’s death is a source of much debate, biblical scholars tend to be in agreement that it came on a Friday on or near Passover, between 30-33AD.
According to the Bible, Jesus shared the Last Supper with his disciples on what is now marked as Maundy Thursday.
He was then betrayed by his follower Judas Iscariot, who revealed his location to Roman soldiers in return for 30 pieces of silver.
The New Testament’s four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all conclude with a detailed account from Jesus’s arrest to his eventual death.
Christ first faces a trial with the Jewish judicial body of the Sanhedrin, before a further hearing at the court of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judaea.
Although the Jewish authorities find him guilty of the blasphemous claim that he is the son of God, Pilate is unconvinced that his crimes warrant capital punishment.
However, the Roman leader is influenced by the gathered crowds, and despite literally “washing his hands” of the affair, he hands the prisoner over to be crucified.
The Bible says that it took Jesus six hours to die on the cross at Calvary, outside Jerusalem, ending his life with the famous words: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Why is Good Friday called Good Friday?
The death of Jesus is thought to have been commemorated by Christians as part of Easter’s Holy Week at least as far back as the fourth century.
On the face of it, the sobering subject matter of the observance jar with Good Friday’s distinctly upbeat name, which is first recorded around the late 13th century.
There is some dispute as to the origins of the label, with some suggesting that it is a corruption of “God’s Friday” and other experts stating that the adjective “good” is simply used to denote any holy day observed by the church.
But for many non-Christians, there’s no doubt why it could be considered a good day: it’s the start of a very long weekend.
Although often referred to as a bank holiday, Good Friday was in fact an existing common law holiday, and so didn’t require to be officially denoted as such with the introduction of the Bank Holidays Act in 1871.