Latter-day Saint Life

An easy Good Friday tradition for your family (with food, simple symbols, and scriptures)

Hot cross buns can be one small part of a Good Friday dinner and devotional celebrations.
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For more than 1,600 years Christians have been documented as celebrating Good Friday. What is this holiday, why is it important, and how can we make it meaningful?


Good Friday marks the day Jesus Christ died for our sins (3 Nephi 11:14). The “Good” in Good Friday is derived from the word holy; Elder Jeffrey R. Holland called it “Atoning Friday.” Thus, it can be called Good, Holy, or Atoning Friday.


Why is it important to commemorate Good Friday? The answer is simple: Our relationship with the Savior is deepened as we reflect on his greatest act of love (John 15:13). Jesus himself has asked us to remember His death (Luke 22:20), view His death (Jacob 1:8) and behold His wounds (Doctrine and Covenants 6:37). I believe He asks us to do this because He knows remembering His death can help us feel His love.

I have often felt perplexed in how to commemorate this day due to the intense and contrasting emotions—sadness and solemnity in the painful process of crucifixion, profound love in Jesus giving His life to atone for our sins, and victory in what Eliza R. Snow termed the “triumph of the cross” in conquering Satan. So how can we give “a greater and more thoughtful recognition of” Good Friday as Elder Gary E. Stevenson taught? One way could be to host a Good Friday dinner. Here are a few ideas on how to do so.

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The power of a Good Friday dinner can come from symbolism found in the Good Friday narrative. Like candy canes or paper angels remind us of the people of Christmas, simple items can connect us with the people and events of Good Friday.

You could try setting your table with a white linen tablecloth to represent the Savior’s burial clothes (Matthew 27:59). Use a piece of purple, red, or blue material, as a table runner to discuss how the veil of the temple which was made of the finest, royal material was torn in two at the Savior’s death signifying that now all could enter the presence of God (Matthew 27:51).

There are other various items you could display on the table to use as discussion points throughout the meal. Of these items, you decide what would be most meaningful for your family:

  • A stuffed lamb could be used to prompt discussion on what it means that Jesus is the Passover Lamb (John 18:21).
  • A crown of thorns, gold crown, whip, or purple robe could be used to discuss the other unfair and cruel acts Jesus suffered on Good Friday and the humility shown by Jesus in allowing it. (Isaiah 53:3–5; Matthew 27:26–31; John 19:2).
  • A cross could be used to talk about Simon of Cyrene who helped carry Jesus’s cross(Luke 23:26) and help us reflect on how we can serve the Lord in our lives.
  • Handcuffs (or knotted rope) for Barabbas can remind us that even though we are all guilty like Barabbas was, we are all set free because Jesus was not set free (Matthew 27:16).
  • A pretty ribbon for Pilate’s wife who shared her personal witness that Jesus was an innocent man (Matthew 27:19), or a toy sword for the centurion at the foot of the cross can remind us of the Centurion’s declaration that Jesus truly is the Son of God and inspire us to testify like he did (Matthew 27:54).
  • A pair of dice reminding us of fulfilled prophecy when the soldiers cast lots for his clothing (Matthew 27:48) A few large nails (Colossians 2:14) and a cup of vinegar (Matthew 27:48) reminding us of events at the cross and the seven final statements of Jesus on the cross.

Before dinner starts or sometime during the meal, turn off the lights to symbolize the three hours of darkness in Jerusalem while Jesus was on the cross and the three days of darkness in the Americas (as Joe and Janet Hale suggest in their book, A Christ-Centered Easter).

You could pass out seven different colored scarves for people to wear or display during dinner to represent the women who were at the cross and discuss how their example of continued faith inspires us to choose to stay with Jesus even when things look bleak.

During dinner, you could pass around a bottle of nice-smelling oils for everyone to smell. These oils remind us of Nicodemus’ devotion when he brought 75 pounds of oil to the burial. Invite people to contemplate what we do to show our love for the Savior.

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The actual food you eat is up to you. For centuries it has been a tradition in many countries to eat hot cross buns as a Good Friday food. In fact, at certain points in history, one country made it a law that hot cross buns could only be sold at Christmas, Good Friday, and funerals. Find a good recipe from the Latter-day Saints behind the popular food blog, Oh, Sweet Basil: The Softest Hot Cross Buns.

Another idea is to have Mediterranean food like dried apricots, pita, a salad of cucumbers and tomatoes, or choose something else that will make the dinner feel special for your family or friends.

Alternatively, fasting on this day is a common tradition for many Christians and could be a way to feel the sanctity of the day. Instead of serving food, your friends or family could gather around a table decorated as laid out above and discuss the symbols and scriptures.

After dinner, similar to the tradition of reading Luke 2 at Christmas, we can read the Passion accounts. They are found in Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19. Each account’s details slightly differ: Mark’s is the shortest and highlights that many women from Galilee were at the cross; John’s account includes Jesus speaking to his mother; Luke has Simon of Cyrene carrying the cross; and Matthew contains detailed signs of Jesus’ death.

The suffering Savior teaches us that He connects with us in our deepest heartaches or intense physical pain. If we are too quick to get to the Risen Lord of Easter Sunday we miss the Loving Christ of Good Friday. Even the resurrected Lord points us to His death. In his first appearance to the Nephites, He said, “Come forth … that ye may know that I … have been slain for the sins of the world” (3 Nephi 11:14).

Just like it would be very limiting to try and fit all our Christmas devotionals, activities, and celebrations into one day, perhaps in addition to a special dinner, we can extend our Good Friday discussions into the weeks leading up to Holy Week, during Holy Week, and on Good Friday.

However we decide to commemorate this day, I hope we feel its holiness and deepen our conviction of the goodness, power, and reality of Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice.

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