Maundy Thursday 2021: what is the Christian holy day marking the end of Lent - and what does it commemorate?

Maundy Thursday is the fifth day of the Holy Week, the week in the Christian calendar leading up to Easter Sunday

This year the Maundy Thursday falls on 1 April, meaning that lent ends on that date.

But where does the term ‘Maundy’ come from, what’s the story behind the observance and what’s the Maundy money tradition?

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What is Maundy Thursday?

Maundy Thursday is the fifth day of the Holy Week, the week in the Christian calendar leading up to Easter Sunday

Maundy Thursday takes place in Holy Week and falls on the day before Good Friday each year.

The day commemorates the Last Supper, during which, according to the Bible, Jesus rose from the table and washed the feet of his disciples.

According to the Bible, Jesus told his disciples: “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet.”

This is a Christian rite known as ‘Maundy’.

However, at that time, it was the lowest servant who would usually wash people's feet, so Jesus performing the Maundy showed his humility, and set an example to his disciples to always treat each other as equals.

Later that evening Judas, one of Jesus’ disciples betrayed him, which led to his arrest and crucifixion.

When is Maundy Thursday this year?

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This year, Maundy Thursday lands on Thursday 1 April, but the date changes each year, as do the other dates of the Holy Week.

The reason the dates change each year is because the Christian Church's council of Nicaea decided that Easter would be the first Sunday that came after the Pascha (or Passover) full moon - the first to appear after the Spring Equinox.

There are close ties between Maundy Thursday and Passover, as the Last Supper was a Passover Seder shared between Jesus and his disciples.

Some priests wash the feet of church attendees on the date as part of their service, as a reminder of Jesus's actions.

Lent and Maundy Thursday

For those following the 40-day tradition of Lent, for some this period of prayer and fasting ends on Holy Saturday, which lands on 3 April this year.

However, for some Lent finishes on Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday, which is on 1 April this year.

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What is the Maundy money tradition?

The Queen usually marks Maundy Thursday by giving out special commemorative coins called Maundy money.

This is a tradition with origins dating back to medieval times.

Although the Monarchy used to give money to the poor alongside washing their feet, the foot-washing ended with King James II in the late 1600s.

The Queen usually offers "alms" to senior citizens on Maundy Thursday itself, distributing commemorative "Maundy money".

Queen Elizabeth II travels to a church in a different UK location each year for the Royal Maundy Service.

The 2019 event was held at St George's Chapel, Windsor, but this year's service – like last year’s – has been cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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Those in receipt of the money receive two purses - one red and one white.

The red purse contains a £5 coin and a 50p coin, and the white purse includes specially minted Maundy Money which is made up of one, two, three and four penny pieces, which in total amounts up to the Monarch’s age.

Where does the word ‘Maundy’ come from?

The word ‘Maundy’ is an Anglo-French word, which is derived from the Latin ‘mandatum,’ meaning ‘commandment’.

The term refers to when Jesus said to his disciples: “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another,” during the last supper.