Easter celebrations will be taking place around the world this weekend as Christians remember the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The Easter weekend runs from Good Friday through to Easter Sunday, with another bank holiday tagged onto the Monday afterwards to give everyone a four-day weekend.

Good Friday is known for marking the day Jesus was crucified, while Easter Sunday itself represents the day he came back from the dead before going to Heaven.

But before that is Maundy Thursday.

While it’s not a bank holiday, Maundy Thursday is still a major day in Holy Week - the seven days leading up to Easter Sunday.

What is Maundy Thursday?

It commemorates the Last Supper, Jesus’ final meal with his 12 disciples before he was killed the following day.

In Jesus’ time the day was Passover, a Jewish celebration where people came together to have roast lamb, bread and wine.

Jesus’ actions during the dinner play a crucial role in Christianity. It was here he broke the bread and shared it with his disciples, before offering them wine.

Fresco of the Last Supper, refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie convent in Milan, Italy
Fresco of the Last Supper, refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie convent in Milan, Italy

While doing this he commanded his 12 followers to think of him when they broke bread and wine together after his death.

Two millennia later and it’s still a major party of daily worship, known as Communion.

As this meal took place the day before Jesus’ death, marked by Good Friday, it’s why the day is called Maundy Thursday.

According to the Bible, Jesus also watched the feet of his followers, and again commanded them to love each other. The Bible says Jesus told his disciples: “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet.”

The term ‘Maundy’ comes from Jesus’ commands during the Last Supper. Maundy comes from the Latin word ‘mandatum’ and means ‘to command’.

How Maundy Thursday is celebrated

Traditionally Maundy Thursday is celebrated with services that include the washing of feet. 2,000 years ago that job was normally done by servants, but Jesus’ symbolic act showed how he served.

The Queen also takes part in the Royal Maundy service where she gives people money in a tradition that goes back to the 13th century. The Monarchy used to give money to the poor and wash their feet, but the foot-washing part ended with King James II in the late 1600s.

The service - called the Royal Maundy - involves the Queen giving two purses of money to an equal number of men and women. The number of men and women chosen reflects the Queen’s age, so in 2020 it would have been 93 men and 93 women.

The Queen giving out money at the Royal Maundy service
The Queen giving out money at the Royal Maundy service

The recipients of the Maundy money are senior citizens selected in recognition of the service they have given to the church and their local area.

Recipients receive two purses, one red and one white.

The red purse contains a £5 coin and a 50p coin while the white has specially minted Maundy Money made up of one, two, three and four penny pieces, adding up to the Monarch’s age.

If the service had taken place this year, the Maundy Money in the white purse would have added up to 93p to reflect Elizabeth II’s age.