Special Report

Good Friday Traditions From Around the World

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Passion Plays in London, England

Thousands of spectators are treated to a Good Friday Passion Play held annually in Trafalgar Square in the center of London. Up to 20,000 viewers typically attend each of the two midday performances, put on by a cast of more than 100 costumed actors, plus a donkey and horses. Parents are warned that the realistically depicted crucifixion scenes might not be appropriate for all children.

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Commercials ban in New Zealand

Because of Good Friday’s religious significance, the day is associated with a variety of bans and restrictions. For example, some faiths encourage adherents to abstain from eating meat, and certain municipalities prohibit or limit the sale of alcohol. New Zealand has one of the most unusual practices. Thanks to the Broadcast Act of 1989, TV and radio broadcasters are forbidden from airing commercials on Good Friday.

Alfombras in Central America

In some Central American countries, including Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, the streets are decorated with vividly hued designs along the route of Good Friday processions. The tradition of creating these “alfombras,” Spanish for carpet or rug, originated in Spain’s Andalusia region. The practice crossed the pond with missionaries more than 400 years ago. The patterns often depict religious or natural images, created from brightly colored sawdust. Alfombras are not meant to endure. The patterns disappear beneath the feet of the marchers and spectators.

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Good Friday Fish Fries in Central US

From Nashville to St. Louis, from Pittsburgh to Kansas City, across Ohio, and elsewhere in the heartland, Good Friday is the night to seek out a down-home fish fry. Sponsored by churches, youth groups, volunteer fire departments, and organizations like the Knights of Columbus, the dinners are held at community gathering places such as American Legion halls, school auditoriums, and restaurants. One goal is to encourage diners to follow the tradition of skipping meat on Good Friday. But the multipurpose events also promote fellowship and community outreach, and are great fund-raisers for civic or church-sponsored groups and activities.

March to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in England

Since the mid-1970s, dozens of pilgrims have embarked on a week-long hike that has them arriving at the Holy Island of Lindisfarne on Good Friday. Many of the participants carry crosses during the 70- to 120-mile journey, a tradition established by members of the organization Student Cross. Timing is everything, as the causeway connecting the island to the mainland is covered by high tides for part of each day. Considered to be among the holiest places in the UK, St. Aidan founded a monastery on the island in the 7th century. The Lindisfarne Gospels, an illuminated manuscript now in the British Museum, was produced on the Holy Island during that era.

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