Holy Week Customs

March 30, 2015 0 By Mirm


Maundy Thursday: maundy may mean several things but is most often believed to mean commandment or mandate. Jesus gave the message of brotherly love to His disciples in John 13:35. This day marks the last supper, the washing of the disciples’ feet, the communion command and the sorrow that followed in Gethsemane.

Through the ages, Christians have tried to follow the commands of Jesus.  Each year the Pope washes the feet of 13 men, representing the apostles and a ministering angel believed to be present at the Lord’s table. Maundy money is the term coined in Britain because royalty distributes money and food to the poor on this day.

Holy Thursday is also referred to as Clean or Pure Thursday because the people bathed and cleansed themselves in preparation for Easter. It is called green or mourning Thursday because the season of repentance is now one of joy; the people would wear green and green herbs to symbolize the new life that was now before them. This day is also referred to as Kiss Thursday , remembering the kiss of Judas; and Shear Thursday, because men would shave their beards for grief at the Lord’s betrayal.

Easter baskets are an outgrowth of the giving of food baskets, containing eggs, bread and other goodies to the poor on Maundy Thursday.Another ancient term for Maundy is often said to refer to a basket.

Good Friday: Originally this day was called God’s Friday and the English word Good comes from the word God. It is a day of mourning for Christ’s suffering and death on the cross. Other names for this day include Long Friday, Holy Friday, and Great Friday. Around the world, many churches hold services between noon and 3pm, the time the Jesus was on the cross.  Many places have a procession in the street recreating original events.  In Jerusalem, the Via Dolorosa, the path Jesus travelled carrying His cross to Calvary, is walked. It is a day for prayer and fasting.

Little or no work is done on this day. In the days of the blacksmiths, no nails were driven because of their use on the first Good Friday.  Iron is not driven into the ground for the same reason. The English custom of playing marbles on this day is an ancient one, as a symbol of the dice throwing by the soldiers at the foot of the cross.  In Europe, squirrels were hunted because it was believed that Judas was transformed into one!  Many cultures would not use water on this day because no one wanted to associate with Pilate who washed his hands at the trial.

Holy Saturday: From the earliest Christian times, Easter eve has been celebrated as a vigil. people would watch for the resurrection by lighting bonfires and candles and wait through the night in darkened churches for the dawn.

Resurrection Sunday: The holiest of holidays is the Lord’s day of joyful triumph through the resurrection!  People wear new clothes, their finest, and baptisms of new converts abound. Many get up to watch the sun rise and many churches have a special sunrise worship service. Outdoor banquets are the custom in several countries, and other countries hold special dances, while still others exchange eggs and greetings and pay visits to their friends and relatives on Sunday afternoon.  It is a feast day all over the world; the Lenten fast is over and the greatest of miracles, the resurrection of Christ is declared from the foods eaten to the clothing worn to every flower and bird in nature.  The whole earth declares the victory!

Joyful Monday: Long ago, people believed water was special during Easter.  People would wash their faces in the morning dew, thinking this would make them beautiful. Others pushed friends into the water, and in Hungary, the boys sprinkle the girls with perfumed water for luck. In England, Monday is lifting or heaving day.  young men decorate a chair with flowers and carry it from door to door.  When a girl sits in the chair, she is lifted 3 times.  She thanks him with money and a kiss.  This serves as a reminder that on the third day Jesus was lifted from the grave and taken to heaven; and that someday we too will be raised to eternal life too!  In Battersea Park in London a colorful parade is held on this day.

This country (US) does not regard Monday in any special way, but many other cultures and countries do extend the celebration to this day with outings, bank holidays and spring festivals.  It is a custom to douse one another with water as a symbol of washing away old faults and bad habits. “Switching” also survives as a stroke of health be being tapped with green branches.  At the White House the President and First Lady oversee the traditional egg rolling and hunt.  There are bands and prizes and gifts to the children whose eggs make it down the slopes of the White House lawn unbroken.