Considering that "Good Friday" commemorates the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ, "good" doesn't seem to be the appropriate word.
In Latin countries, it's called Holy Friday. In Germany, it's Mourning Friday. Norway refers to it as Long Friday. It has also been called Great Friday and Black Friday.
But in English-speaking countries, Christians believe it's "good" because Christ's sacrifice resulted in victory over physical and spiritual death.
"In it we celebrate the passion, the death and resurrection of Christ," said Monsignor Joseph M. Mayo, pastor of the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City.
Observed by most Christian denominations, Good Friday falls on the Friday preceding Easter (April 2 in 2010). It is part of the Paschal Triduum, or Easter Triduum. which begins with the Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper and ends with evening prayer on Easter Sunday.
Good Friday often coincides with the Jewish observance of Passover. The holiday is also part of the Catholic Church's Lent observation and concludes 40 days of repentance, fasting and prayer in preparation for Easter Sunday, Monsignor Mayo said.
The day of remembrance includes a communion service (not a full Mass), the reading of the passion of Christ as found in the Gospel of St. John, a special intercession for the world and an opportunity for worshippers to reverence the cross, according to Rev. Paul McCarthy of St. Thomas More Catholic Parish in Sandy. Worshippers also reverence the Savior's "way of the cross," 14 scenes of his journey from his condemnation to being laid in the tomb.
"It's about Jesus' death, the culmination of his life," the Rev. McCarthy said. "We believe his death is the wellspring of our salvation."
It is important to note, the Rev. McCarthy said, that Good Friday and Easter are combined together to make one significant feast.
"Good Friday is only part of the story," he said. "If Jesus just died, he would have just been another prophetic figure in the history of the world. But we believe he rose again from the dead. That is an essential point."
Good Friday and other special days of Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter, are recognized universally in Western civilization, Monsignor Mayo said.
"The stock market closes on Good Friday. It's a special day throughout the world," Monsignor Mayo said. "The First Presidency (of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) always acknowledges the death and resurrection of Christ in their Easter messages."
In reflecting on the death and resurrection, Monsignor Mayo hopes worshippers are inspired to improve their lives.
"It's always important to know of our own mortality, which it reminds us of," he said. "While here on this earth we are given a certain amount of time to contribute to good things, to making life and society better. When we finish our work, we continue in a different way of building up the kingdom of heaven."