What is Holy Week

An iron statue of Jesus on the cross sitting against a brick wall.

Also known as Passion Week, Holy Week is primarily a Christian observance of the last week before Easter, which commemorates Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection.

Holy Week has been an important part of the Christian tradition for over two thousand years and is observed by Christians from all denominations. The solemnity of Holy Week is made even more poignant as we are reminded of the power of Christ’s sacrifice and the hope of his resurrection.

In addition to commemorating the events of Christ’s Passion, Holy Week is also a time to reflect on your spiritual journey and to prepare for Easter. Many Christians take part in special services and traditions during Holy Week, such as Palm Sunday (sometimes referred to as Passion Sunday), Maundy Thursday (also known as Holy Thursday), Good Friday and Holy Saturday. While there is a Holy Tuesday and Holy Wednesday, these are not widely recognized the same way others are.

A list describing Holy Week that reads, from top-to-bottom, "He enters Jerusalem - Palm Sunday." Then "The Last Supper - Maundy Thursday." Then "The Crucifixion - Good Friday." Then "He Lies in the Tomb - Holy Saturday." And finally "He has risen - Easter Sunday."

Spy Wednesday

Spy Wednesday is a relatively little-known day in the Christian tradition that commemorates Judas Iscariot’s decision to betray Jesus. On this day, Christians remember the moment when Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus to the authorities for 30 pieces of silver.

Spy Wednesday is often observed with special services and prayers, and it can be a time for reflection on the role of Judas Iscariot in the story of betrayal. It is also a reminder of the power of betrayal and the danger of being led astray.

Christ’s Passion

Christ’s passion is the story of his suffering and death. It is told in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Christ’s passion is also known as the Passion of Christ, the Passion Narratives, or the Lord’s passion. The word “passion” comes from the Latin word for suffering. Christ’s passion is a very important part of the Christian belief system.

It began with his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. Where he was taken to the High Priest and then to Pilate. Pilate ordered Christ to be crucified, and he was nailed to the cross. Jesus died on the cross, and his body was taken down and placed in a tomb. On the third day after Christ’s death, he rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples.

Many Christians also remember Christ’s passion throughout and during the final week of Lent, which is the 40-day period of fasting and prayer before Easter. 

Good Friday is the day on which Christ’s crucifixion is remembered. Easter Sunday is the day on which Christ rising from the dead is celebrated.

The Mount of Olives

On the day before the crucifixion, Jesus goes to the Mount of Olives with his disciples. This is where He gave them notice that one of them will betray him. The Mount is thought to be the place from which Jesus ascended into heaven. The Garden of Gethsemane is a garden located on the Mount. It is where Jesus went with his disciples the night before he was arrested. In the garden, Jesus prayed and asked God to take away his cup of suffering. 

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Matthew 26:39, NIV

Palm Sunday

Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday (also called Passion Sunday), it is the first day of Holy Week and commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Christians celebrate Palm Sunday by blessing palm branches or leaves and often burn them for use on Ash Wednesday the following year, while some Christians fold them into crosses to keep at their homes. Others hold processions in which they march and sing praises to the Lord. 

The Gospel reading for Palm Sunday tells the story of how Jesus entered Jerusalem and the crowd greeted Him with palms and praises, and how Jesus responded by telling them that the day would come when he would be crucified.

This story reminds us of the importance of humbly following Jesus Christ, even when others may not understand or agree with our decision. The events of this day permeate throughout the week, leading to the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus.

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday is the day on which Christians remember the Last Supper, when Jesus shared a final meal with his disciples before his crucifixion. Many churches hold special services on Maundy Thursday, which often include a re-enactment of the Last Supper. Maundy Thursday is also known as Holy Thursday, because it marks the beginning of the Easter Triduum, or three-day period leading up to Easter during Holy Week.

Holy Thursday is also the day when Jesus washed his disciples feet in the upper room. 

Then Jesus gave them the new commandment:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

John 13:34, NIV

Chrism Mass

Chrism Mass is a Catholic Mass celebrated annually on Holy Thursday. The main purpose is to consecrate the holy oils that will be used in the sacraments during the coming church year. The holy oils include oil for baptism, confirmation, ordination, and healing.

The oil used is blessed by the bishop and then distributed to the priests, who will use it throughout the year in their ministries. The oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and its use in the sacraments reminds us of God’s presence in our lives.

What is the Lord’s Supper?

The Lord’s Supper is a Christian sacrament commemorating the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with His disciples. During the Passover Meal the bread and wine are consecrated and then consumed. The Lord’s Supper is also known as the Holy Eucharist, Holy Communion, or Mass. It is one of the two blessed sacrament recognized by most Christians, the other being Baptism.

There are varying interpretations of the Lord’s Supper within different Christian denominations. Some believe that the bread and wine are merely symbols of Jesus’ body and blood, while others believe that they are actually transformed into the body and blood of Jesus. The Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, and some Protestant denominations teach that the bread and wine are consecrated by the priest or bishop and then transformed into the body and blood of Jesus.

Good Friday

Good Friday is the day in Holy Week on which Christians commemorate Jesus’s crucifixion. It is a day of mourning and reflection, and many Christians choose to spend time in prayer or meditation on this day. Good Friday is also known as Holy Friday, Black Friday or Easter Friday.

Many attend services on this day in order to be reminded and honor the sacrifice Jesus made for us. Some will even take the day of Good Friday and abstain from eating to truly remember what Jesus went through for us.

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday is the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It is a day of waiting and anticipation, as Christians prepare for the resurrection of Jesus. Holy Saturday is sometimes called Easter Eve or the Vigil of Easter. For those that celebrate the Easter Vigil, on the night of Holy Saturday, there is a Paschal candle that is lit. This candle is a symbol of hope and the light of Christ.

Easter Vigil

The Easter Vigil is a Christian liturgy held in the hours between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter Sunday. The Vigil celebrates the resurrection of Jesus and is the most important liturgical event of the year for many Christians. The Vigil typically includes a service of light, readings from Scripture, prayers, and hymns. Many Christians also choose to baptize new members into the faith on Easter Vigil.

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday is the day on which Christians celebrate His resurrection from the dead after Jesus spent three days in the tomb. It marks the end of Holy Week and is the most important day in the Christian calendar, and its recognition is arguably one of the most important baptismal promises . Easter day is a time of joy and celebration, as Christians remember the ultimate victory of when Jesus rose over death.

When is Holy Week 2024

Holy Week 2024 falls from Sunday, March 24th through Saturday March 30th 2024.

Final Thoughts

Holy Week is a time of great celebration for Christians all over the world as they remember Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. This year, take some time to reflect on what that means for you and how you can continue to follow Jesus’s example throughout the rest of your life. 

Whether you celebrate Holy Week or just Easter, be sure to spend time with family, friends, and the Christian community to rejoice in the hope that comes with knowing that the empty tomb is a sign that Jesus is alive!


For the sake of clarity, Catholicism is the largest denomination of Christianity. While we generally try to speak of the Christian experience in our articles from a non-denominational perspective, Holy Week is celebrated by both Catholics and Christians, just predominately by Catholics. A non-denominational church may not celebrate Holy Week the same way a Catholic church might, but the themes and purpose of Holy Week are core beliefs of the Christian faith and important to recognize.