Holy Week is the week leading up to Resurrection Sunday (Easter). It begins with the triumphal entry on Palm (Passion) Sunday. The week continues with Maundy (Holy) Thursday, Good (Holy) Friday, and Holy Saturday. It climaxes with Resurrection Sunday (Easter).
Maundy Thursday is when the last supper was held. Christians get the tradition of communion (Eucharist/sacrament of Thanksgiving) from this meal. Jesus and His disciples were in Jerusalem for Passover and that was the meal they were sharing. The color is red for the disciples.
On Good/Holy Friday, believers are to remember the suffering of Christ. His arrest, trial, crucifixion, suffering, death, and burial are the focus of the service. No communion is given; communion is a celebration. The color of the service is black: for sin, for death, for the thought of life without God.
Some denominations mark the following passages as containing the last phrases Jesus spoke before His death and resurrection:
7 last words of Jesus
Luke 23: 34, 43, 46
John 19:26-27, 28, 30
Some churches have a service of darkness/shadows. It is a service of scripture and meditation. As the service progresses, lights and candles are gradually extinguished, to represent the growing darkness of Jesus’s death and hopelessness in world without God. The last candle lit is the Christ candle (see, it's not just for advent!). This candle is extinguished and carried out, to symbolize his death. After a loud noise that symbolizes the closing of the tomb, the congregation leaves in silence.
Holy Saturday is a day of rest, reflection, and waiting. It is a time to remember family and friends who have died (while we await the resurrection), to honor martyrs, to fast, to keep a vigil.
The service on Resurrection Sunday (Easter) starts in darkness. As the service progresses, a candle is lit and others candles are lit from it. Lights are turned on as scriptures are read. This is a joyful service. The traditional carry-in dinner is to break the fast of Holy Saturday. The color is white for the resurrection.
Some churches display a rough, wooden cross during Lent and cover it in flowers for Resurrection Sunday. Some churches display a miniature tomb that is opened for the service.
You might be wondering why I keep calling Easter "Resurrection Sunday." I personally believe it is more accurate. When I was researching Easter, I found out that the name is strongly steeped in paganism (based on the word for the English goddess of Spring). History, Origins, and Practices of Easter. I like the thought of using a name that directly spells out what is so great about this holiday.
What are some of your traditions for Resurrection Sunday (Easter)?