Today is Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday, the day that Christians around the world remember Jesus’s “last supper” with his disciples and the way he shocked his followers by washing their feet (a task typically done by servants because it was considered low, dirty work).
Several years ago, on Maundy Thursday, I discovered a brown paper bag on my doorstep. Inside I found four rolls, four grape juice boxes, and a washcloth. My friend Doreen left it for our family with a note explaining that for many years she and her family had enjoyed the ritual of washing each other’s feet and taking communion together on Holy Thursday.
After dinner that night, I pulled out one of our children’s Bibles and read the story of the last supper to our two kids. Our family then took turns washing each other’s feet in a plastic tub of warm water. The kids were 3 and 6 years old at the time and they were very sweet and cute as they carefully rubbed our feet with the wet washcloth, then patted each foot dry with a clean towel.
Our kids were particularly fond of the grape juice boxes and rolls, so much so that the following year they asked me to buy the exact same brand of grape juice boxes and to ask Doreen which grocery store she had bought the rolls from so that we could get the same ones.
When my son Jonah was 4 years old he asked if he could hold the bread and juice and say “the words” to each person. (“The body of Jesus, broken for you” and “The blood of Jesus, poured out for you.”) When it was time for the bread and juice, he had his dad and sister get in a line facing him. He picked up a roll, held it out to his dad, then leaned over to me and whispered, “What’s my line again?”
The first year our church had a Maundy Thursday service, our family planned to attend, so I didn’t buy any rolls or juice knowing that we’d take communion at church. But as soon as the service was over, the kids asked if we were going to “do it as a family” when we got home. They insisted on stopping at the store on our way home to get our own rolls and juice so we could continue what had become one of their favorite family traditions.
Symbols and rituals mean a lot to children. They learn best experientially when they engage their sense of touch, taste, sound, smell, and sight. (Adults do too.)
Perhaps you’d like to try this with your family or others. If you don’t have a tub, basin, or large bowl for the foot washing, you can use the bathtub. Be creative.
If you try it, I’d love to hear about it. Please share your stories in the comments. If you have other Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, or Easter rituals and traditions that you’d like to share, please do!