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British Life & Culture

Special Events and Celebrations

by Mandy Barrow

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Holy Saturday
Woodlands Junior School is in the south-east corner of England

cross What is Holy Saturday?

Holy Saturday is also known as Easter Even and the Great Sabbath.

The term "Easter Even" was used by the 1549 Prayer Book. The 1979 BCP uses the title "Holy Saturday" for the Saturday before Easter (p. 283)

cross When is Holy Saturday?

It is the Saturday before Easter, the last day of Lent and is the day when Christ's body lay in His Tomb. In the early church Holy Saturday was a day of fasting and preparation for the Easter Vigil.

cross What happened on the day before Easter Sunday?

This day was the Sabbath and the day which Jesus rested in the grave.

cross What takes place on Holy Saturday?

Many churches hold services on this eve of Easter Day.

Easter Vigil

Easter Vigil, dating back to at least the Roman times, takes place on Holy Saturday. The Easter Vigil is a service held in many Christian churches as the official celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The service includes the first use of the word alleluia since the beginning of Lent as well as the first Eucharist of Easter.

The Easter Vigil is celebrated by the use of a wax candle which is inscribed with a cross. The letters alpha and omega are inscribed at the top and bottom and the four numbers representing the current year are inscribed above and below the cross arms. Five grains representing the wounds of Christ are sometimes pushed into the soft wax.


In the early church this was always the time to baptise or 'christen' new Christian converts who had be learning about Christianity during Lent. They were then ready to take their first communion on Easter Sunday, the day of Resurrection. Christian baptisms symbolise death and resurrection and so it is very fitting for them to take place at this time of year.

Traditional English Holy Saturday Event

Britannia Coco-nut Dancers of Bacup

The Bacup Nutters Dance traditionally takes place on this day in the small Pennine town of Bacup. Each year a team of folk-dancers with blackened faces dance through the town from boundary to boundary.

Britannia Coco-nut Dancers of Bacup

A form of morris dancing, the blackened faces could be down to the mining connection or it may be to protect the dancers from being recognised by evil spirits.

History behnd the tradition

The tradition of this dance is thought to date back to 1857. It is said to have originated with Moorish pirates, and to have been brought to Lancashire by Cornish tin miners.

See a video of one their dances

Holy Saturday is not Easter Saturday

Holy Saturday is also often incorrectly called Easter Saturday, a term that correctly refers to the following Saturday after Easter.

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Mandy is the creator of the Woodlands Resources section of the Woodlands Junior website. 
The two websites and 
are the new homes for the Woodlands Resources.

Mandy left Woodlands in 2003 to work in Kent schools as an ICT Consulatant. 
She now teaches computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.