Millions of Orthodox Christians commemorate Good Friday, also known as “Great Friday” to remember the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. The Orthodox Easter dates usually differ from the dates used by western churches because most Orthodox churches retained some version of the Julian calendar, which is older than the Gregorian calendar, commonly used today.

What Do People Do?

On Good Friday, many Orthodox Christian churches hold special liturgies with readings from the Gospels of the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. In countries such as the United States, some Orthodox churches hold evening liturgies throughout Holy Week, with some special afternoon liturgies for children on Good Friday. Church activities may include: a family retreat with children’s activities; discussion groups; the wrapping of the red eggs to be distributed on Easter Sunday; and a Lenten lunch. Many adult Orthodox Christians observe Good Friday with fasting, prayer, cleanliness, self-examination, confession and good works.

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The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America celebrates the Passion of Christ, or the last moments of his life according to the New Testament in the Bible, on Good Friday. This liturgy is long, but its content is dramatic. The liturgy also includes participation in prayers and the historical sequence of the events, as related in the Gospels and hymns.

In Greece, Good Friday is a day of mourning so many people may avoid household chores. A ritual lament called the “Procession of the Epitáphios of Christ” mourns the death of Christ on the cross with a symbolic decorated coffin carried through the streets by the faithful. Families attend their church to decorate the Epitaph (Bier of Christ) with flowers. In the morning of Good Friday, Christ’s burial is reenacted in many churches and in the evening the Epitaph procession takes place.