Saturday is the last (seventh) day of the week on many calendars and in conventions that consider the week as beginning on Sunday, or the sixth day of the week according to international standard ISO 8601 which was first published in 1988.
Saturday was named no later than the 2nd century for the planet Saturn, which controlled the first hour of that day according to Vettius Valens. Its Latin name dies Saturni ("Saturn's Day") entered into Old English as Saeternesdaeg.
Origins in antiquity
The weekday heptagram, i.e. the association of the days of the seven-day week with the seven classical planets, probably dates to the Hellenistic period. Between the 1st and 3rd centuries, the Roman Empire gradually replaced the eight day Roman nundinal cycle with the seven-day week. The astrological order of the days was explained by Vettius Valens and Dio Cassius (and Chaucer gave the same explanation in his Treatise on the Astrolabe). According to these authors, it was a principle of astrology that the heavenly bodies presided, in succession, over the hours of the day. The association of the weekdays with the respective deities is thus indirect, the days are named for the planets, which were in turn named for the deities.
For both Jews and the Seventh-day Adventist, the seventh day of the week, known as Shabbat (or Sabbath for SDA), stretches from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday and is the day of rest. Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches distinguish between Saturday (Sabbath) and the Lord's Day (Sunday). Quakers traditionally refer to Saturday as "Seventh Day", eschewing the "pagan" origin of the name. In Islamic countries, Fridays are considered as the last day of the week and are holidays along with Thursdays; Saturday is called Sabt (cognate to Sabbath) and it is the first day of the week in many Arabic countries.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church Saturdays are days on which the Theotokos (Mother of God) and All Saints are commemorated, The day is also a general day of prayer for the dead, because it was on a Saturday that Jesus lay dead in the tomb. The Octoechos contains hymns on these themes, arranged in an eight-week cycle, that are chanted on Saturdays throughout the year. At the end of services on Saturday, the dismissal begins with the words: "May Christ our True God, through the intercessions of his most-pure Mother, of the holy, glorious and right victorious Martyrs, of our reverend and God-bearing Fathers…". For the Orthodox, Saturday—with the sole exception of Holy Saturday–is never a strict fast day. When a Saturday falls during one of the fasting seasons (Great Lent, Nativity Fast, Apostles' Fast, Dormition Fast) the fasting rules are always lessened to an extent. The Great Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross and the Beheading of St. John the Baptist are normally observed as strict fast days, but if they fall on a Saturday or Sunday, the fast is lessened.
Name and associations in European cultures
In Scandinavian countries, Saturday is called lördag, "lørdag," or laurdag, the name being derived from the old word laugr/laug (hence Icelandic name Laugardagur), meaning bath, thus Lördag equates to bath-day. This is due to the Viking practice of bathing on Saturdays.
Today, Saturday is officially called Samstag in all German-speaking countries, but there it has two names in modern Standard German. Samstag is always used in Austria, Liechtenstein, and the German speaking part of Switzerland, and generally used in southern and western Germany. It derives from Old High German sambaztac, which itself derives from Greek Σάββατο, and this Greek word derives from Hebrew שבת (Shabbat). However, the current German word for Sabbath is Sabbat. The second name for Saturday in German is Sonnabend, which derives from Old High German sunnunaband, and is closely related to the Old English word sunnanæfen. It means literally "Sun eve", i.e., "The day before Sunday". Sonnabend is generally used in northern and eastern Germany, and was also the official name for Saturday in East Germany. In the Westphalian dialects of Low Saxon, in East Frisian Low Saxon and in the Saterland Frisian language, Saturday is called Satertag, also akin to Dutch Zaterdag, which has the same linguistic roots as the English word Saturday. In West Frisian there are also two words for Saturday. In Wood Frisian it is saterdei and in Clay Frisian it is sneon, derived from snjoen, a combination of Old Frisian sunne, meaning sun and joen, meaning eve.
All Slavic languages derive their name for Saturday from the name for Sabbath: (Czech/Slovak/Polish/Slovene: sobota; Russian: суббота subbota, Serbian/Ukrainian субота subota). A similar numbering trend is also exhibited by the Baltic languages.
Similarly, the Romance languages follow the Greek usage, so that their word for "Saturday" is also a variation on "Sabbath": the Italian is sabato, the French is samedi, the Spanish and Portuguese is sábado and the Romanian is sâmbătă.
Reception outside of Europe
The modern Maori name for it, Rahoroi, literally means "washing-day" - a vestige of early colonized life when Māori converts would set aside time on the Saturday to wash their whites for Church on Sunday. A common alternative Māori name for Saturday is the transliteration Hatarei. For other languages, see Days of the week Planetary table.
The Chinese-based Korean word for Saturday is 토요일 (To-Yo-Il [meaning: Earth - day]) from the Chinese character 土 meaning Earth, or Ground but more significantly makes reference to 토성 (To-Sung 土星) which means Saturn.
In India, Saturday is Shanivar, based on Shani, the Vedic god manifested in the planet Saturn. In the Thai solar calendar of Thailand, the day is named from the Pali word for Saturn, and the color associated with Saturday is purple.
Position in the week
The international standard ISO 8601 sets Saturday as the sixth day of the week. The three Abrahamic religions, via their original languages, regard Saturday as the seventh day of the week (Judaism via Hebrew, Christianity via Ecclesiastical Latin, and Islam via Arabic). As a result of the Julian calendar's international acceptance, many contemporary followers of the Abrahamic religions have associated Saturday with their "seventh day". As a result, many refused the ISO 8601 standards and continue to use Saturday as their "seventh day". This is concordant with the European Pagan tradition, which named the days of the week after the seven Classical planets (in order Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn), naming the first day of the week for the Sun, perceived as most important, and moving to those perceived as lesser.
Saturday is associated with the planet Saturn and symbolized by that planet's symbol ♄.
- Saturday is a weekend day in most countries (see Workweek).
- In Nepal Saturday is last day of the week and is the only official weekly holiday.
- Saturday is the official day of rest in Israel, on which all government offices and most businesses, including some public transportation, are closed.
- Saturday is the usual day for elections in Australia and the only day in New Zealand on which elections can be held, and also the preferred election day in the U.S. state of Louisiana.
- Saturday morning is a notable television time block aimed at children while airing generally animated cartoons.
- It is common for clubs, bars and restaurants to be open later on Saturday night than on other nights. Thus "Saturday Night" has come to imply the party scene, and has lent its name to the films Saturday Night Fever, which showcased New York discotheques, Uptown Saturday Night, as well as many songs (see below).
- Saturday night is also a popular time slot for comedy shows on television. The most famous of these is Saturday Night Live, a skit show that has aired on NBC nearly every week since 1975. Other notable examples include Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell. This practise lent its name to the film Mr. Saturday Night, starring Billy Crystal.
- In folklore, Saturday was the preferred day to hunt vampires, because on that day they were restricted to their coffins. It was also believed in the Balkans that someone born on Saturday could see a vampire when it was otherwise invisible, and that such people were particularly apt to become vampire hunters. Accordingly, in this context, people born on Saturday were specially designated as sabbatianoí in Greek and sâbotnichavi in Bulgarian; the term has been rendered in English as "Sabbatarians".
- The amount of criminal activities that take place on Saturday nights has led to the expression, "Saturday night special" a pejorative slang term used in the United States and Canada for any inexpensive handgun.
- In Sweden, Saturday is usually the only day of the week when children are allowed to eat sweets, lördagsgodis. Lördag derives from lögardag; old word löga meaning to wash/clean. This tradition was introduced in the 1960s to limit dental caries, utilizing the results of the infamous Vipeholm experiments. See festivities in Sweden.
Saturday in popular culture
- In the folk rhyme Monday's Child, "Saturday's child works hard for a living".
- In another rhyme reciting the days of the week, Solomon Grundy 'Died on Saturday.'
- Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal is a single-panel webcomic by Zach Weiner.
- The Saturday Evening Post
- Saturday Night Live
- Saturday (Fall Out Boy song) from the album Take This to Your Grave.
- Saturday (Kids in Glass Houses song) from the album Smart Casual.
- The Saturdays (female pop group).
- The 1977 disco film Saturday Night Fever.
- The Elton John song Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting.
- Lazarus Saturday is the day before Palm Sunday, and is part of the Holy Week.
- Holy Saturday is the day before Easter.
- Black Saturday is a day named after the beginning of a tragic bushfire in Victoria, Australia.
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- "It was with the adoption and widespread use of the seven-day week throughout the Hellenistic world of mixed cultures that this heptagram was created." Symbol 29:16
- McClelland, Bruce A. (2006). Slayers and Their Vampires: A Cultural History of Killing the Dead. University of Michigan, 62–79. ISBN 9780472069231.
- Димитрова, Иваничка (1983). Българска народна митология (Bulgarian).
- Abbott, George F. (1903). Macedonian Folklore, 221–222. In Summers, Montague  (2008). The Vampire: His Kith and Kin. Forgotten Books, 36.