This is the last day of Lent, and the day before the Passion. Its also called Holy Thursday when Christians remember the Washing of the Feet, and the Last Supper.. Maundy is thought to be from the ‘Latin word mandatum, or commandment, reflecting Jesus’ words “I give you a new commandment.’ (Wikipedia). But I much prefer the derivation that it comes from the custom of the English Kings giving alms to poor people on this day.
‘English name “Maundy Thursday” arose from “maundsor baskets” or “maundy purses” of alms which the king of England distributed to certain poor at Whitehall before attending Mass on that day. Thus, “maund” is connected to the Latin mendicare, and French mendier, to beg.‘
The monarch gives out money in special red and white pouches to old people. In modern times the money is specially minted for the occasion. It is now more symbolic than a practical gesture. It dates back to the 13th Century.
In 1572 Queen Elizabeth 1 washed one foot of a group of poor women, then wiped, crossed and kissed them. In fact, the women had first had their feet washed by the laundress, then the sub-almoner, then the almoner, and finally the Queen. (The Perpetual Almanac of Folklore by Charles Kightley’
One scholar, Prof Humphreys author of ‘The Mystery Of The Last Supper’, believes that there is far too much going on between the Last Supper on Thursday and the Crucifixion on Good Friday. He suggests an old Jewish Calendar was used and therefore the Last Supper was on the Wednesday not the Thursday and the date he favours is:
Wednesday, 1 April AD33