“Why is it called ‘Good Friday’? It doesn’t seem like it was a very good day.” The Newton Falls Public Library staff thought this was a very timely question and began the search in the 2011 edition of the World Book Encyclopedia. The entry about Easter describes each of the days of Holy Week including Palm Sunday, Maundy or Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday but does not explain how each became so named.
The staff were surprised they couldn’t find the answer in The New Interpreter's Bible: general articles & introduction, commentary, & reflections for each book of the Bible, including the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical books or The Encyclopedia of Religion. The Oxford English Dictionary: being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement, and bibliography of a new English dictionary on historical principles founded mainly on the materials collected by The Philological Society defined good, as it relates to this day, as “a day or season observed as holy by the church.”
We then expanded our search to online resources. The site, ChurchYear.net says the Eastern Catholic Churches call this day “the Great Friday . . . The name ‘Good Friday’ possibly comes from ‘God's Friday,’ although the exact reason for the current name is unclear.”
Charlie Dean, the lead pastor of Imago Dei Church [www.imagodeichurch.org], defines the term in this way: “After 40+ days of penitence, it’s time for relief! On Good Friday, we contemplate . . . Generally, Good Friday is marked with communion, and, depending on your faith tradition, a Good Friday service can end with a triumphant note, or it can leave you feeling unsettled. . .”
At Google Books [www.books.google.com] we found the The American Cyclopaedia: a popular dictionary of general knowledge, Volume 8. As defined on page 101, “It is only in England that the ‘good’ is applied to this feast. Its ancient title was Holy Friday, or the Friday in Holy Week. The Saxons named it ‘Long Friday,’ both because of its long religious services and of its rigorous and protracted fast. The Germans term it sometimes Stiller Freitag because bells and organs are silent on that day, and sometimes Char Freitag from an old meaning penitence.”