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Why do we eat fish on Good Friday and can you eat meat? The traditions behind the Easter date explained

The i 15/04/2022 Jaymi McCann

Good Friday is here, and it signals that Lent is almost over and Easter is just around the corner.

This year it falls on Friday 15 April, and it will be marked by millions of Christians around the world.

But the day comes with many customs, including the traditional meal of fish. Here’s everything you need to know about why we eat fish on Good Friday.

Why should you eat fish on Good Friday?

According to Christianity Jesus sacrificed his own flesh on Good Friday, so the rule is to avoid eating meat on this day.

The church in the medieval era decreed that meat from warm-blooded animals should be avoided every Friday, and also on Wednesdays during Lent, and historically this was a rule Catholics followed.

This was changed in the 1960s by The Second Vatican Council, which decreed that it is now only guidance to avoid meat on Fridays during Lent, including Good Friday as well as Ash Wednesday.

While many Catholics stopped abstaining from meat throughout the year, some do still adhere to the old rule.

The preferred alternative is usually fish, which is also symbolic in Christianity.

The Bible says Jesus performed a miracle by feeding 5,000 people with only two fish and five loaves of bread.

Christians also often used the fish symbol to identify themselves and one another during periods of oppression.

Many of Jesus’s disciples were also fishermen, including St Peter, and the food was widely available at the time as they lived near the Sea of Galilee.

Can I do the washing?

There is no rule in Christianity that says you cannot do your washing or cleaning on Good Friday.

However, it is an old superstition that doing housework on this day will bring bad luck to your family.

It is also said that children should not climb trees, men shouldn’t shave, and you shouldn’t handle any nails or iron tools.

However, it is thought to be lucky to cut your hair, as it will grow back thicker, or plant things, as they will grow abundantly.

What is the Christian meaning 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 faced 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 found him guilty of the blasphemous claim that he was the son of God, Pilate was unconvinced that his crimes warranted capital punishment.

However, the Roman leader was influenced by the gathered crowds, and despite literally “washing his hands” of the matter, he handed 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 words: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Why is the bank holiday 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.

Good Friday is one of eight bank holidays observed across the UK, which combined with Easter Monday gives many Brits four precious days off.

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.


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