Holy Thursday marks the beginning of Triduum. Here’s how to mark the day at home—and what kids can watch for at Mass.
Make unleavened bread and grape juice for Holy Thursday
Bake a loaf of unleavened bread with your kids for your evening meal; tell the story of the Last Supper as you work together. Then, help your kids make grape juice from real grapes, and let them drink the juice at supper on Holy Thursday. Point out that just as the grapes are crushed to make wine, Jesus was “crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5).
Eat festive food
Holy Thursday is a festive day in the Church (the liturgical color at Mass is white), so choose something festive to serve. Wine (and sparkling grape juice for the kids) is definitely on order.
Catholic Cuisine has a lengthy article (Holy Thursday in the Home) on the traditional celebration of Holy Thursday, including some great meal suggestions (scroll to the bottom of the page for these) inspired by the Last Supper.
At our house, the most “festive” food is pizza. Pizza for Holy Thursday??? Well, why not? Especially if you use a yeast-free pizza dough recipe (get an easy one on Cooks.com) to imitate the unleavened bread eaten at the Passover meal…and if you use appropriate toppings (real olives to represent the olive grove in the Garden of Gethsemane; red grapes, cut in half, to represent the cup of wine; spinach and onions, to represent the bitter herbs)…and if you shape the ingredients to make a kind of cross. Rushed? Get thin bagels at the store and have your kids decorate them with the toppings; bake at 425 for about 5 minutes or until brown. Use your meal time to talk about what to expect at the Holy Thursday service.
Some Christians eat a modified Passover Seder meal on this day; you can find detailed instructions for preparing a Holy Thursday Seder meal at CatholicCulture.org.
Strip your prayer table
If you have a prayer table or home oratory, strip it bare on the evening of Holy Thursday or the morning of Good Friday, and keep it that way through Saturday evening. Make a connection to the altar at your parish being stripped bare on Holy Thursday. If you own a crucifix, place it on your prayer table or in another accessible place where it can be reverenced throughout Good Friday. Prepare festive decorations to place on your prayer table on Easter morning.
Give to the poor
It has long been traditional to give gifts to the poor on Holy Thursday. Your parish might have a special collection, or collect your CRS rice bowl donations. In Great Britain, the monarch distributes “Maundy money” on this day, a tradition dating back to the time of King Edward I.
Read the Scriptures for the Day
If you plan to attend Holy Thursday services, you can read the Scriptures for the day in advance to help your kids hear and understand them at Mass. You can find them at the USCCB website.
7 Things for Your Kids to Look for at Church on Holy Thursday
Of course, the centerpiece of Holy Thursday is the celebration of Mass. This first liturgy of Triduum has some special features that your kids will want to look for:
- Reception of the Holy Oils. Before Mass begins, you might participate in a short ritual to receive the holy oils blessed by the bishop during the Chrism Mass. These oils—the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of Catechumens, and the holy Chrism—will be used by the parish in the sacraments of Anointing, Confirmation, and Baptism throughout the year.
- Focus on the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist. Point out to your kids that it is at this Mass that we remember in a special way the night that Jesus gave us the Eucharist. You can read the Gospel in advance, perhaps during your family meal.
- Washing of the feet. The Gospel of John recalls how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples as an example of the sort of charity and service they should practice in his name; in this way, the Gospel intimately links the Eucharist with service. Your parish may or may not include a washing of the feet ritual. In some parishes, the priest washes the feet of twelve individuals representing the twelve apostles; in other places, parishioners wash one another’s feet as a reminder of our baptismal call to imitate Jesus’ example.
- “Ubi caritas est vera, Deus ibi est.” You may sing this ancient hymn during the washing of the feet or the collection for the poor; the words mean, “Where true charity is, there is God.”
- Transfer of the Eucharist. In most places, after communion, the Eucharist is transferred to a closed tabernacle or pyx in another specially prepared place, where it is reserved until the Good Friday service. Typically, the Blessed Sacrament is carried through the church in a procession while the hymn “Pange lingua” is sung.
- Stripping of the altar. After Mass, the altar cloths will be stripped, and any crosses in the church may be covered with a red or purple veil.
- Eucharistic adoration. When the procession bearing the Blessed Sacrament reaches the place where it will be reserved, the assembly is encouraged to remain in the place for some time in prayerful adoration. Never tried Eucharistic adoration before? Check out Ways to Do Eucharistic Adoration with Kids.
More about celebrating Holy Thursday
- Find out about the history of the day and its celebration around the world at Wikipedia’s Maundy Thursday article.
- …and even more about the day’s history and traditions from Fish Eaters.
- Jennifer Gregory Miller has an extensive article about Holy Thursday customs, including the Seven Churches Visitation, at Catholic Culture.
- Jessica at Shower of Roses pulls out all the stops with her symbolic, multi-course Holy Thursday dinner featuring, among other things, chicken (for the cock crowing); a “mount of Olives”; unleavened bread; thirty coins of silver; and costly oil.