Maundy Thursday is also known as Holy Thursday depending on where it is being observed and by what religious denomination. It takes place during Holy Week, being on the Thursday before Easter. It is the day after Holy Wednesday and the day before Good Friday. It commemorates the maundy—or washing of the disciples' feet—and the Last Supper of Jesus Christ, in which he instituted Holy Communion to his disciples. It is not a public holiday in the United States, but in some parts of the world it is, such as in most countries that were part of the Spanish empire and the Danish colonial empire.
There are two possible sources of the word "maundy." The main one says it is from the Latin word "mandatum," which means "commandment." The word was used in a phrase that Jesus spoke while he washed his disciples' feet. On Maundy Thursday, mandatum ceremonies take place in the Catholic Church, as part of Mass or separate from it. During them, a bishop usually washes the feet of twelve people from the community, just as Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. Other denominations besides the Catholic Church also participate in the washing of the feet.
The second theory on the name "maundy" says that it derives from "maundsor baskets" or "maundy purses." The king of England would traditionally give these out to the poor before attending mass on the day. They were named as such because the Latin word "mendicare" means to beg. Some dispute this interpretation as a reasoning for the name of the day.
Worship services and Mass are usually held on the evening of the day, as this is when Friday begins in the Jewish tradition, and that is when the Passover started. The Mass is called Chrism Mass in Catholic and Anglican churches. Communion takes place and the liturgy is usually solemn. Afterwards some churches serve potluck dinners, and donations for the poor are commonly collected. Meals of lamb, bitter herbs, and wine are also commonly consumed on the day.
How to Observe
Observe Maundy Thursday by attending a worship service or Mass. Participate in the Communion rite and attend a mandatum ceremony. You could also eat some foods commonly eaten on the day, which were part of the Last Supper meal.