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Black Saturday (March 30th, 2024)

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For those who are not from the Philippines, or who do not have a background in Catholicism, the term Black Saturday might be associated with a time to do some shopping on the weekend after Thanksgiving (although, that is Black Friday). 

Or Black Saturday could also be related in some people’s minds to the wild bushfires that took place in and near Victoria, Australia on a Saturday in 2009. But that isn’t actually what this day is about either!

In fact, Black Saturday predates both of these as it is a religious observance that dates back about 2000 years. This day is part of the Christian tradition, particularly the Catholic people who live in the Philippines.

History of Black Saturday

Black Saturday is part of the Holy Week events that are observed during the week running up to Easter. This week represents a very important part of the year for Christians as each day acts as an opportunity to remember and honor the events that happened during the last week of Jesus’ life before his death and resurrection, ranging from Palm Sunday to Easter.

In many western cultures, this day is referred to as Holy Saturday, but in the Philippines especially, it is called Black Saturday. This is considered to be an important time of grief and mourning, paying homage to it as the day after Jesus was killed in a brutal way. As most of the Filipino culture practices Catholicism, on this day the shops and Businesses are closed and even the radio stations either stop altogether or refrain from playing loud or peppy music.

Black Saturday Timeline

33 AD 

First Black Saturday takes place 

After his death on Friday, followers of Jesus are grieved by the events and feeling hopeless prior to his resurrection the next day.[1]

4th century AD

Holy Week is first celebrated 

Special observances begin to develop as a way to mark this important time in Christian History.

1521

King and Queen of Cebu become Catholic 

The roots of Catholicism in the Philippines are established after Magellan and his crew arrive on the islands.[2]

1946

Philippines gains independence

Following Japanese occupation during WWII, the Philippines finally becomes an independent nation.[3]

How to Observe Black Saturday

Christians all over the world will be finding different ways to observe and honor Black Saturday. As a fairly solemn holiday, the events may include something quieter and more reflective, particularly for those who have a devout faith.

Consider some of these ideas when looking for ways to get involved with Black Saturday or Holy Saturday:

Spend Time in Silence and Solitude

Some people feel that Black Saturday is a time to be spent alone, thinking about the importance of this day in relation to their faith. This might be a time to go for a walk alone and listen to some solemn music, to spend time in silent meditation and prayer, or to read the Bible. In some homes, it might be a tradition to light some candles as a reminder of the ‘light’ that is to come on Easter Sunday when Jesus is resurrected.

Attend Church

Some churches have special services that are held in honor of Holy Saturday. This might be a short gathering for prayer or it could be a simple candlelight service. Some churches, particularly those of the Catholic faith, may be closed on Black Saturday as this is considered to be a time when holding a mass service is inappropriate. In addition, many churches will be spending time on this day getting ready for the Easter Sunday celebrations.

Learn More About Holy Week

Black Saturday is part of a larger celebration that is considered to be Holy Week. This week changes on the calendar each year, but it always precedes the celebration of Easter. Typically, Holy Week is considered to begin on Palm Sunday, which is that historical day when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey and the people praised him and waved palm branches in his honor.

Other important days involved with Holy Week include:

  • Holy Wednesday

    While some Christians do not really celebrate this day, others consider it important in the History of Holy Week because it was the day that Judas Iscariot made the decision to betray Jesus, leading to his death.

  • Maundy Thursday

    This is the day when Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples: they had a meal, the first communion took place and also Jesus washed the disciple’s feet.

  • Good Friday

    The day that Jesus was crucified and buried is considered “good” because it is an important part of the Christian Faith.

  • Easter Sunday

    This commemorates the day Jesus rose from the dead and is celebrated by Christians all over the world.

Visit the Philippines

Those who are interested in Black Saturday as more of a cultural experience than a religious one might be interested in Traveling to the Philippines during the celebration of Black Saturday as well as the rest of Holy Week. One particular island of the Philippines, called Marinduque, is the site of a specific celebration during Holy Week that is simply referred to as the Moriones festival. This folk-religious festival has roots in the Philippines that date back to the 1800s.

The “Moriones” are men and women who wear costumes that represent the Roman soldiers during Biblical times. From Holy Monday to Easter Sunday, these intimidating “Moriones” roam the streets engaging in antics, drawing attention to themselves and scaring the children. The idea behind the celebration is the reenactment of the story of Saint Longinus, who was a Roman soldier with one eye. Various other activities take place during this week on the island of Marinduque as well, and this might be a very interesting place to spend Black Saturday.

Watch Some Historical Films

A few different films depicting the Biblical stories of Jesus and the last week of his life have been put to film. Black Saturday might be a good time to spend watching one of these films that show some of the background and culture behind this observance. Consider one of these films to watch:

  • The Passion of the Christ (2004). In this story of Christ, as directed by Mel Gibson, Jim Caviezel plays Jesus.
  • The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). In Martin Scorcese’s interpretation of this story, Jesus is played by Willem Dafoe.
  • The Jesus Film (1979). This dramatic telling of the story of Jesus of Nazareth stars Brian Deacon.
  • Son of God (2014). Roma Downey stars as Mary, Jesus’ Mother, in this retelling of the life of Jesus. 

Black Saturday FAQs

Can you eat meat on Black Saturday?

In most churches, there is no general requirement for fasting on Black Saturday, but some individuals may choose to.

Are churches open on Black Saturday?

Because it is a public holiday in the Philippines, many Businesses are closed on Black Saturday, but some churches may be open for prayer.[1]

Why do we celebrate Black Saturday?

For Christian people, this day commemorates the time that Jesus lay in the tomb after his death but before his resurrection. It is also the end of the season of Lent.[2]

Why do they call it Black Saturday?

The term “Black Saturday” is meant to describe the grief and sorrow experienced on this day after Jesus died.

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