Much like other holidays, observance of Good Friday is evolving


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Add Good Friday to the list of days with an evolving lifestyle.

Two generations ago, the religious aspect of Good Friday permeated American society, with many government offices closed completely and stores unavailable from noon to 3 p.m. for religious observances.

These days, while many Christians go to services and refrain from eating meat, the day also is treated as a getaway day for a long holiday weekend. Much like Christmas in many cases has shifted to Santa Claus and the day after Thanksgiving has become a shoppers' paradise (or war zone), so has Good Friday changed.

Etna residents gather for Good Friday worship

Members and non-members of Etna's churches carry a cross up a city street and place it in the cemetery ground in celebration of Good Friday. (Video by Kalea Hall; 03/29/2013)

Rush-hour traffic Friday was light around Pittsburgh and hundreds of Downtown parking garage spaces that normally are filled were empty most of the day.

Figuring out what's open and what's not on Good Friday seems to be a changing target every year.

Government and office policies vary greatly. The city of Pittsburgh was closed Friday, except for garbage collection and public safety services. Allegheny County's administrative offices were open, but row offices were closed, a policy set by each elected official. Courts were closed.

At the state level, those offices under Gov. Tom Corbett were open, a policy that has been in place for more than a half-dozen years. Legislative and court offices were closed, and workers in the treasury, auditor general and attorney general offices were dismissed at least two hours early.

That has changed over the years with a check of newspaper clippings from the late 1960s and 1970s showing all government offices closed. State liquor stores and most banks also were closed in the late 1960s.

Port Authority's offices were closed Friday, including its Downtown service center, but customer service phone lines were staffed and the authority operated regular weekday service. Spokesman Jim Ritchie said he did not know the rationale for the closings -- and officials in human resources had the day off Friday -- but pointed out that numerous other offices were closed for the day.

In the U.S., Good Friday is not a federal holiday and there is regular mail delivery and federal banks are open. But the financial market and stock market are closed.

Twelve states have Good Friday as an official holiday: Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.

Some strong Christian countries, including Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, include Good Friday as a national holiday.

One thing that hasn't changed: Good Friday is the culmination of a busy Lenten season for seafood restaurants since many Catholics don't eat meat on Fridays.

"This is my busy time of year and I love it," said Marvin J. Morris, general manager at Mitchell's Fish Market at The Waterfront in Homestead.

"We've already been busy today," he said at mid-afternoon Friday. "We're up about 20 percent at lunch over last year. We know we're going to be busy, so we have all hands on deck to take care of our customers."

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Ed Blazina: eblazina@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1470. Jon Schmitz contributed. First Published March 30, 2013 4:00 AM


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