Black Saturday is a public holiday in the Philippines. It is a day of mourning — the day Jesus Christ was laid in his tomb after his death by crucifixion, hence the word ‘black.’ Also known as Holy Saturday, it has been given many names such as “White Saturday,” “Easter Eve,” and “Vigil of Easter.” According to the Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar, it is the final day of Holy Week, Lent, and the Easter Triduum (that is, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday).
History of Black Saturday
Black Saturday commemorates the day Jesus Christ was laid in the tomb after his death. According to a Biblical account (Luke 23:50-56), Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. It says: “He took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and placed it in a tomb cut out of the rock, where no one had yet been buried. It was the day of preparation and the Sabbath was beginning. The women who had accompanied Jesus from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they returned and prepared aromatic species and perfumes.”
According to Catholic teaching, it was also on Black Saturday that Christ “descended into hell.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that “the dead Christ went down to the realm of the dead. He opened heaven’s gates for the just who had gone before him.”
Easter Vigil takes place on the evening of Black Saturday recalling the vigil that Jesus’s disciples and followers observed after his crucifixion on Good Friday. It is also called Paschal Vigil — a service that culminates in the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. As the church is put into darkness, a priest or minister enters bearing a Paschal candle accompanied by the chant “The Light of Christ.” After the blessing of the Paschal candle, the rest of the candles in the church are lit and all lights are switched on to celebrate Easter.
In the Philippines, Black Saturday is declared a “special non-working holiday” when schools and most businesses are closed. Because the Philippines is predominantly Catholic, most local radio and television stations stop airing programs or playing loud music not only on Black Saturday but also on Holy Thursday and Good Friday.
Black Saturday timeline
“Holy Week” is first used by St. Athanasius and St. Epiphanius.
The First Council of Nicea decides that Easter should fall on the first Sunday after the full moon that follows the spring equinox.
Biblical scholars set the date of Jesus’s crucifixion on April 3 (a Friday); they believe he dies at 3 p.m.
The first observance of Easter is recorded, though the celebration of Jesus’s resurrection takes place later.
With the revamp of the Church liturgy, Easter vigil ceremonies are scheduled after sundown on Holy Saturday.
Black Saturday FAQs
How do Filipinos observe Black Saturday?
Devout Filipino Catholics often observe the traditional ‘visita iglesia’ in which they recite the Stations of the Cross and meditate in as many churches as they can visit. For the rest of the Christian population, it is customary to just stay home and watch epic films or episodes of the Holy Rosary’s sorrowful mysteries produced by the late Fr. Patrick Peyton.
What is the most widely observed liturgical tradition on Black Saturday?
This tradition includes the Easter vigil, where the faithful are blessed with holy water. It is sometimes called “the Saturday of Light”.
Are Filipino Catholics and Christians allowed to drink on Black Saturday?
Generally, as a form of sacrifice and sign of respect, conservative Filipino Catholics have been taught not to: drink, talk and laugh loudly, have fun (like outings), and even check their cell phones, laptops, and other gadgets starting Holy Thursday until Black Saturday.
How to Observe Black Saturday
Go to church
Say a prayer or recite and meditate on the Stations of the Cross in your parish church. You can also access online live streams or recorded podcasts of Holy Week retreats conducted by priests and deacons.
Watch epic films with friends and family
Organize a Holy Saturday lunch with your friends and family. Watch films such as “The Ten Commandments,” “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” “The Passion of the Christ,” or “The Robe.”
Give an offering
Whether it’s your church, a local food pantry, a person in need, or someone in your neighborhood who’s currently out of work, making a donation on this holy day is a meaningful act. Donate whatever you can.
5 Unknown Facts About Holy Week Rituals In The Philippines
Some devotees have themselves crucified
Some devotees in the province of Pampanga go to the extreme — they imitate Christ’s suffering on the cross on Good Friday by having themselves crucified!
Some devotees practice self-flagellation
To show atonement, some devotees walk barefoot on the streets with a sack covering their heads and their backs, dripping with blood as a result of repeated flogging.
The Moriones festival is a spectacle
In Marinduque, the Moriones march around town in masks and costumes during Holy Week to replicate the garb of Roman soldiers in ancient times.
Dramatics are a tradition
Professional and amateur actors perform the ‘senakulo,’ a dramatic presentation of Christ’s passion and death — it may be performed on stage, in a chapel, or in the open.
‘Siete Palabras’ can be a Holy Week retreat
Most Filipino Catholics troop to churches or auditoriums to listen to the ‘Siete Palabras,’ which are sermons and prayers delivered by priests meditating on Christ’s seven last words on the cross.
Why Black Saturday is Important
It’s a religious tradition
Black Saturday, being part of Holy Week, is an important religious event in the Philippines and the rest of the Christian world. It is a time to reflect on Christ’s passion and death.
It culminates in the greatest of Christian feast days
Black Saturday culminates in what is considered Christendom’s greatest feast day — Easter Sunday. Join in the celebration.
It’s a laid-back day fit for contemplation
It’s a perfect time for prayer and reflection. Get together with family and friends to do so.
Black Saturday dates