In Christianity, the week preceding Easter, from Palm Sunday until the following Saturday.
The Holy Week commemorates the incidents leading up to the day of Jesus' resurrection. It is within the Holy Week that the actual celebration of the death of Jesus is acted out, and not Easter. Holy Week is sometimes called the “Great Week” by Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians because it commemorates the great deeds of God for humankind.
Day by day
When Holy Week starts on Palm Sunday, it is by commemorating the day when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem and was welcomed by its inhabitants waving palm branches.
Then follows 3 normal days before Maundy Thursday, which is remembered as being the day when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. "Maundy" comes from the Latin word for "commandment" which Jesus spoke of in connection with the foot washing. This day is sometimes also called Sheer Thursday. It is the Gospel according to John that places the footwashing on this day, the other three gospels has this day as the day of the Last Supper.
Friday is called Good Friday, and is the central day of Holy Week, as it is defined as the day when Jesus was crucified and died.
Saturday is a silent day, called Holy Saturday or often also Silent Saturday. With this day, Holy Week ends.
Special meaning of the days
Maundy Thursday is a day of special observances recalling the institution of the Eucharist.
Good Friday involves the reading of scriptures, solemn prayers and veneration of the cross, all in recollection of the crucifixion of Christ on Good Friday.
Holy Saturday commemorates the burial of Christ and involves midnight vigil services to inaugurate the Easter celebration of the resurrection.
Early on, only Friday and Saturday were observed as holy days. Wednesday was later added, as the day when Judas betrayed Jesus. This would later be moved to Maudy Thursday.
In the Byzantine Codex Theodosianus it was decided that all courts of law closed through Holy Week and the following Easter, but no regulations were imposed on business.
2nd century: First, basic forms of celebration of Holy Week.
Second half 3rd century: The whole week before Easter has become a week of holy observation, yet not called Holy Week. Greek scriptures call it Great Week.
4th century: Archbishop Athanasius of Alexandria and Bishop Epiphanius of Constantia introduce the term "Holy Week".