The Thursday before Easter Sunday is celebrated as Maundy Thursday, the Greater Thursday or Holy Thursday. On the day of the Last Supper Jesus washed the feet of all his disciples showing his gratitude to all his followers, thus establishing a ceremony that came to be known as Eucharist. Maundy Thursday commemorates the day of the Last Supper and Jesus’s gesture of thankfulness. ‘Maundy’ evolves from the French word ‘Mande’, which means mandate, ordinance, sacrament or command that Jesus gave to all Christians (According to the new Testament). The command to "love one another as I have loved you.” And remember him in this ceremony.
During the Last Supper or Passover meal when Jesus shared food with his disciples. He took bread and wine and asked god for his blessings. He then offered the bread as “my body” and wine as “my blood” to his disciples. He told his followers to eat the bread and wine in communion in his memory when he is gone.
Many Churches host special communion services on Maundy Thursday. In the Modern days Western Holy Thursday services in some churches have option between blessing of chrism and the washing feet ceremony. After the evening mass for Holy Thursday the Church Altars are stripped and holy water vessels are emptied. The Blessed Sacrament is carried in a procession through the church to a place of reposition. The Pange Lingua, or the Tantum Ergo (as the last two stanzas are known as) is sung during this relocation procession.
In Britain, the Monarch participates in the Royal Maundy Ceremony. The Royal Maundy Ceremony date back to the reign of Edward I. During this ceremony the Monarch distributes Maundy money to senior citizens. These citizens are usually chosen or their special services to the society. In this formal ceremony of Maundy Thursday the Royal Guard’s Yeomen carry red and white purses on Royal alms trays on their heads while the monarch hands over the money to the deserving. The red purse has money for food and clothing while the white purse has Maundy Coins. The Maundy coins are specially minted for this occasion. In 15th century, the Maundy Money and the number of people who were to receive it, was related to the Monarch’s age.
In 2009, the monarch handed out two purses- the red purse with a £5 coin to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII coronation as the monarch. And a 50p coin to celebrate the founding of the Kew Gardens. The white purse had 83p Maundy coins to mark the Queens 83rd birthday.
Till 1689 the monarch would wash and kiss selected poor people’ feet as a gesture of gratefulness and humility and in remembrance of Christ washing the feet of followers. This custom has not been performed for the past 300 years. I should be noted the feet the monarchs were about to wash and kiss was already washed by the Yeomen of the Royal Guard. James II was the last monarch to perform this gesture.
In other parts of the world Christians attend the special Commemoration for Holy Thursday and then move off to a house where people come together and celebrate Sader meal and enact the Last Supper of Christ’s life. People eat hot cross bun and drink wine and beer as a re-enactment of Christ’s Last Supper.