As we prepare to mark the day that Christ was put to death, we wanted to take a look at various Good Friday traditions that take place around the world. While many Catholics honor Jesus by performing a Passion play or participating in processions, each country has its own unique way of commemorating Good Friday.
You’ll notice that lots of these traditions are solemn and pay homage to Christ’s last hours before he was put to death. Yet even with such solemnity, it’s wonderful to discover how Catholics all over the world honor our Lord on Good Friday. You may want to incorporate some of these customs into your own family traditions in the years to come.
Along the path that Christ was believed to have taken to his crucifixion at Golgotha, outside Jerusalem, Christians gather to follow in His footsteps. In what must be a most moving event, some of the devout may carry crosses so that they can feel the same weight as Jesus did on the journey to His death.
It seems only right that perhaps the most spectacular Good Friday event happens in Rome, home to Catholics around the world, The faithful make a procession to a huge torch-lit cross erected outside the Colosseum. The crowd holds up candles as they listen to the Pope lead the Way of the Cross, depicting Pilate’s condemnation of Jesus, his journey to Calvary and His entombment. A true spiritual pilgrimage on this most holy of days.
If you’ve ever seen the many Easter processions that take place in Spain during Holy Week, and especially Good Friday, you might have been surprised to see penitents wearing white hoods similar to those worn by the Ku Klux Klan. However, these hats predate the KKK by several centuries; they are a throwback to the famous Spanish Inquisition, where those found guilty would wear a conical hat and be forced to walk in the streets to the mocks and jeers of the crowds. The processions are now a nod to Christ’s walk to Calvary.
As in many Christian countries, residents take part in a procession reenacting Christ’s walk to his death. Taking part in Iztapalapa, out of the 4,000 actors who participate in the event, one courageous man is chosen to play the part of Jesus. Donning a crown of thorns, along the journey he is flogged and even bears a 200-pound cross for two kilometers!
Young Catholics of this Central American nation get creative on Good Friday. Carrying buckets of colorfully dyed sawdust that they’ve prepared for weeks, young adults will spend hours on their hands and knees to create alfrombas, “carpets,” depicting the different scenes of Christ’s Passion, death, and resurrection. After their long, hard work, the Easter procession will then walk over this carpet, honoring the youngsters’ efforts.
In Peru, many locals will participate in Good Friday processions. However, residents of the country’s capital, Lima, will make their way to a hand-painted crucifix called the Lord of Miracles that was made in the 1600s by a an enslaved artisan. The religious icon has survived numerous earthquakes over the centuries.
Throughout the Mediterranean island, locals take part in various processions in the late afternoon to honor the Passion of Christ. Along the walk, participants are dressed as biblical figures, with some carrying statues. As with other processions people may choose to carry crosses, while some will drag heavy chains in an act of penance or of faith.
In Bensheim, Germany, the Italian community participates in an annual procession on Good Friday. The event depicts the last days of Christ’s life on earth, from the betrayal to His crucifixion, with a real-life Jesus “nailed” to the cross. — you’ll have to look closely to see how it is reenacted without harming the performer!
If you happen to be on a trip to London, then head straight to Trafalgar Square to bear witness to a 90-minute production of the Passion. The play is free for all to see, either in the flesh or by watching it livestreamed. Shows are at noon and 3:45 p.m. GMT, so don’t forget to set your watches.
As well as eating hot cross buns and codfish cakes, residents of the island in the North Atlantic Ocean take to the beaches and fly kites on Good Friday. Not your regular tradition for sure, but the charming history behind the festival is that a Sunday school teacher was trying to demonstrate to the children Christ’s ascension to heaven.