Holy Saturday Folklore, History and Symbolism

Holy Saturday is the day in the Christian liturgical calendar that is the last day of lent and of the Holy Week.

After the death and the burial of Jesus Christ, his factions held a 40-hour vigil on Good Friday and before his rebirth on Easter Sunday.

Holy Saturday is the 3rd day of the Easter Triduum, the three high holidays before Easter, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, & Holy Saturday. It is celebrated as Easter Even, Black Saturday, Easter Eve, or the Saturday before Easter.

When is Holy Saturday Celebrated?

Holy Saturday is Celebrated between the Good Friday and the Easter Sunday.

When is Holy Saturday Celebrated
When is Black Saturday Celebrated

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The Ecumenical Council of Nicea (325 CE) that constructs the Ecclesiastical Tables sets the Easter dates, as the 1st Saturday that follows the 1st full moon after the spring equinox (with minor tuning for the Gregorian calendar).

What does the Bible say about the Holy Saturday?

What does the Bible say about the Holy Saturday
What does the Bible say about the Holy Saturday

According to the Bible, the followers of Jesus Christ waited for 40 long-hours outside the tomb, anticipating his expected revival.

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Biblical mentions to the wake are fairly brief, but books of the burial are Matthew 27:45–57; Mark 15:42–47; Luke 23:44–56; John 19:38–42.

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“So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.” Mark 15:46–47.

There is no thru mention in the official Bible to what Jesus Christ did while the devotees and his family sat in the watch, except the last verses to Barabbas the thief:

“Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:33–43).

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The day is also referred to as “The Harrowing of Hell”, as per the authors of the Athanasian Creed and the Apostles’ Creed.

It was the time when Jesus ran down into hell to free all the souls who had died since the start of the world and let the stuck virtuous souls reach heaven.

“Then the Lord stretching forth his hand made the sign of the cross upon Adam and all his saints. And taking hold of Adam by his right hand, he ascended from hell, and all the saints of God followed him.”

Gospel of Nicodemus 19:11–12

The theory was coined in the mythical text “Gospel of Nicodemus” (also known as the “Acts of Pilate” or “Gospel of Pilate”), and are stated in numerous places in the official Bible, the most noteworthy of which is 1 Peter 3:19-20, when Christ

“went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah.”

History and Observances of Celebrating

The time between the Good Friday and the Easter Sunday is the duration during which Christ was removed from the cross and buried in the Tomb to the time when he was resurrected.

History and Observances of Celebrating Holy Saturday
History and Observances of Celebrating

In the 2nd Century CE, the devotees of Jesus fasted for 40 long-hours during the night of Good Friday till the dawn of the Easter Sunday.

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By Constantine’s kingdom in the 4th century CE, the night of the watch of Easter began Saturday at twilight, with the illumination of the “new fire,” with numerous lamps, candles and the paschal candles.

The Paschal Candle is a very significant part of Black Saturday services which is made of beeswax and stuck in a large candlestick created for the same purpose.

A per the Catholic Encyclopedia the history of Black Saturday has differed over several centuries in the past. It says: “in the early Church, this was the only Saturday on which fasting was permitted.”

Fasting is a sign of amends, but on Good Friday, Christ remunerated with his blood the obligation of his admirers’ sins, and people, therefore, had nothing to regret.

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Thus, for many eras, Christians observed both Saturday and Sunday as days on which fasting was prohibited.

That rehearsal is still imitated in the Lenten restraints of the Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, which ease their diets a little on Saturdays and Sundays.

The Vigil of Easter

During the Black Saturday afternoons, Christians would gather together, pray and discuss the Rite of Baptism on catechumens.

The Vigil of Easter
The Vigil of Easter

Transfigures to Christianity who had paid Lent cooking to be customary into the Church.

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In the early Church, the Catholic Encyclopedia says that “Holy Saturday and the vigil of Pentecost were the only days on which baptism was administered.”

The wait lasted till the night of Easter Sunday when for the 1st time Alleluia was sung since the Lent beginning and all the truthful including the newly christened, broke their 40-hour long fast and watch by getting Communion.

With the beginning of the 8th century i.e. in the Middle Ages, the Vigil of the Easter which included the Easter Candle lightning and getting fire blessings began to be celebrated earlier than usual.

Later, it became a trend to celebrate the ceremonies in the morning of Black Saturday eve.

The full Black Saturday, initially a day of sorrow for the crucified Christ and of hope of his Revival, now became little more than keenness of the Easter Vigil.

The 21st Century Changes

After the Holy Week reforms of 1956, most of the rites were returned to the Easter Vigil, this is, to the mass feted after dusk on Black Saturday, thereby restoring the true form of the Holy Saturday.

The 21st Century Changes
The 21st Century Changes

Till the amendment of the rules for abstaining and self-discipline in 1969, stern fasting and asceticism sustained to be proficient on the morning of Black Saturday.

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Thus prompting the authentic devotes of the mournful nature of the day and making them ready for the delight of Easter feast.

While abstaining and asceticism are no longer obligatory on Black Saturday morning, performing these Lenten practices is still a decent means to perceive this holy day.

No mass is offered by churches in the 21st century for the Holy Saturday on the days of Good Friday.

As on Good Friday, the modern church offers no Mass for Black Saturday.

The Easter Watch Mass, which takes abode after the end on Holy Saturday, actually fits Easter Sunday, as liturgically, each day starts at sunset on a preceding day.

Thus to fulfill the duty of the Sunday parishioners’, the holy communion is dispersed at the evening rite honoring Christ’s Urge.

On Black Saturday the Eucharist is only given to the truthful as viaticum.

That is desired for those who are in danger of death and want to get prepared for the next life after this one is over.

The 21st century Vigil Mass of Easter is a representation of the 1st vigil that begins outside the church near a charcoal brazier.

Later the paschal candle is lit and the mass is held by the priests into the church.

What are the different Christian Holy Saturdays?

What are the different Christian Holy Saturdays
What are the different Christian Evil Saturdays

Good Friday and Easter are not only celebrated by the Catholic Christians but there are other Christian sects as well throughout the world that observe the custom as part of their tradition.

These are;

  1. The Russian Orthodox Churches celebrate Holy Saturday as part of their Holy Week tradition where Saturday is the last day of the fasting ceremony. It begins on the palm Sunday and devotes break the fast & attend the church services.
  2. The Protestant churches such as Methodists and Lutherans and United Church of Christ ponder Holy Saturday as a day of observation between the Good Friday and Easter amenities that are typical, no unusual services are held. 
  3. The Eastern Orthodox Churches rejoice the Great Easter and Holy Saturday, or the Blessed Sabbath, on which day some worshipers join vespers and attend to the Rite of Saint Basil.
  4. The Active Mormons (the Church of the Latter Day Saints) hold a Vigil on Saturday nightly, thru which folks meet outside the church, make a fire pit and then light candles before the church entrance premises.  

What is the Symbol of Holy Saturday?

What is the Symbol of Holy Saturday
Symbol and Interpretation

The symbol of the Holy Saturday is the Paschal Candle that is made of white material.

It is a symbol of taking people out of darkness into the world of happiness and light by the celebration of the Easter Vigil.

The 1st and the last letters of the Greek alphabets i.e. the alpha, the omega along with a cross symbol is marked on the candle.

This is a symbolic representation of the fact that Jesus Christ has always been with humanity and will continue to be with it.

Public Holiday and Celebration

Public Holiday and Celebration
Public Holiday and Celebration

The eve of Holy Saturday is a Public Holiday and majority of the places around the globe but some common places where it usually happens in huge numbers are listed below;

El SalvadorZimbabwe
ZambiaSolomon Islands
Papua New GuineaPanama
Hong KongUSA
Public Holiday and Celebration

However, in major parts of the USA, Canada, Russia and the UK it is not a public holiday but more than a that a day of celebration and rejoice.


According to the Christian Belief, Holy Saturday memorializes the day when Jesus Christ died and his body was in the tomb.

On the day of Easter Sunday, Jesus was revived which is the day after the holy day or the Holy Saturday.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Where was Jesus on Holy Saturday?

The Christians believe that the Holy Saturday memorializes the day when Jesus Christ died and his body was in the tomb. On the day of Easter Sunday, Jesus was revived which is the day after the holy day or the Holy Saturday.

What was Jesus doing on Holy Saturday?

Jesus falls away from the dominion of the death on Holy Saturday to save the virtuous souls, such as the Hebrew headmen, who died before his execution as per the Protestant churches, the eastern orthodox and roman catholic churches.

What do you eat on Holy Saturday?

Roman Catholics prefer to eat the meat of warm-blooded animals on Holy Saturday. However, most of the Roman Catholic Churches refrain from having mean during Ash Wednesdays and on all Fridays during Lent, including Good Friday.