The Good Earth of Good Friday

by Stacy Smith

My grandfather used to always say that you should plant your garden on Good Friday. An intensely practical man, he shunned such frivolities as flowers and squash—a vegetable he regarded as inedible—but planted rows and rows of butter beans, tomatoes, peas and green beans in the dark soil of his north Georgia garden. As a little girl, my mother remembers putting on my grandmother’s high heels and going out in the backyard garden with my grandfather. She would dig the heel of her shoe into the brown dirt where my grandfather would then place a seed. As a child myself, I remember sitting with him on the porch snapping green beans before dinner. And each of those beans grew out of a seed that found its way into the ground on Good Friday.

The tradition of planting your garden on Good Friday is an old standard in the South. Some say that it grew out of the time of the potato famine when gardeners needed an extra blessing to make their crops grow. It may also be simply that Good Friday is often a day off from work and a chance to spend extra time outdoors. Many gardeners, however, view it as impractical because Good Friday moves around. Some years it’s in late March when a hard frost could destroy the seeds, and other times it falls deep into April when your garden should already be planted. Yet for my grandfather and lots of other gardeners, Good Friday is the best day of the year to plant the seeds that will produce food in the coming months.

This tradition is a way of demonstrating that in the midst of death—even death on a cross—we continue to have hope. On this day of darkness and death, we testify that the hope we have in Christ is one that will bear fruit—and vegetables. And even if those seeds of hope are buried deep in the earth, in the darkness of the soil when a hard frost can still threaten the crop, the good earth of Good Friday reminds us that death does not have the final word. Planting a garden on this day means that we trust that life is stronger than death, that light is stronger than darkness, and that the spring is stronger than the winter we are leaving behind.

This year, consider planting a Good Friday garden. This may mean that you take to the backyard to plant rows and rows of butter beans, or that you place an herb plant in the windowsill. Or if you are like me, born without your grandfather’s touch for keeping things green, consider other ways that you can plant seeds of hope in your metaphorical backyard. Greet a neighbor, help out with a community project, take a walk around the block or buy produce from your local farmer’s market. Find a way to trust in the good earth of Good Friday, remembering that even from the darkest of soil, a seed of hope will sprout.

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