Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday is a Christian observance that takes place during Holy Week. It is sometimes referred to as Holy Thursday. The day marks Jesus’s last supper before his crucifixion and the first communion. It is the day before Good Friday and the Thursday before Easter Sunday.

Christians commemorate the holiday with Church services that feature the Holy Communion. There also might be a supper or charitable activity. The meal may traditionally include lamb, bitter herbs, and wine. Sometimes, priests may was the feet of congregation members in reference to Jesus washing the feet of his disciples on Maundy Thursday. The term “Maundy” comes from the Latin word mandatum, meaning a command.

Biblical Background

The main significance of Maundy Thursday is the institution of the Eucharist, or the Holy Sacrament, in which Christians drink wine and a cracker or unleavened bread that is consecrated to represent (a terminology which is debated depending on denomination) the body and blood of Jesus. Since Jesus commanded his followers to observe this practice, Christians often receive the Holy Communion during church services.

The story of the Last Supper features a celebration of the Passover, during which Jesus made the command, the washing of feet, spending much of the night in the Garden of Gethsemane, where he and his disciples prayed, and his following betrayal by Judas. Jesus also predicted Peter’s later denial of him. That night, Jesus was taken into captivity, leading to his crucifixion. The holiday has been publicly celebrated by many cultures since 393 AD.

International Celebrations

Besides the traditional feast and church service, other international celebrations include:

  • In Britain, the monarch gives alms, which are coins, to senior citizens. This is also called “Maundy Money,” which is a common practice outside of the US, though the ages of recipients differ.
  • Swedish children dress as witches and go door to door for candy, coins, or Easter eggs. This is due to the day’s association with folklore.
  • In Bulgaria, participants decorate Easter eggs on Maundy Thursday.
  • A state in India, Kerala, takes the holiday very seriously, with services often lasting until after midnight.
  • In the Czech Republic, children may walk around making noise with rattles.
  • All over the world, observers may participate in the tradition of visiting seven churches on Maundy Thursday.

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