Holy Thursday (or Maundy Thursday, in some traditions) is the Thursday of Holy Week. On Holy Thursday, we remember the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist. One other tradition that is seen throughout many Christian religious traditions on Holy Thursday is foot washing. Even if you are not participating in a foot washing at church, you can plan a Holy Thursday family foot washing!
When I was a Protestant, Maundy Thursday was a night for a Christian Seder and then a foot washing at my church. As a Catholic, the parish we (used to) belong to has a carry in meal and then Mass. One of my favorite parts of that Mass is seeing the foot washing.
This is probably because in April of 2007, I was among the 12 that had their feet washed. At my parish, the 12 who have their feet washed are 12 people from within the RCIA program (those converting during the Easter Vigil) that have volunteered. Their feet are washed by the priests of the parish. To me, that is moving.
So, in the years following, I had wished there was some way to experience it again. And, then it hit me!
A family foot washing!
Additional Resources: 10 Lent and Holy Week Activities for Catholic Families Free Printable
How to Plan a Family Foot Washing for Holy Thursday
Note: This is an updated account of something I wrote in 2009, which was back when our kids were nine, seven, and four. So, when I mention the kids as being small, that was before I had kids that do things like shave and have to reach things on high shelves for me.
Discussing the Foot Washing First
In the evening, we talked about the significance of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. We read in the Bible about when Jesus did this after we felt like the kids had an understanding of why He did it, though they were, of course, already familiar with the reading.
We also talked about the importance of not only serving others, but of also allowing others to serve us sometimes.
While I know the last part of that might sound counter intuitive. However, we talked about how sometimes, when someone feels called to serve us, if we won’t allow them to do it, then it takes away that experience for them. Sometimes it’s time to serve others and sometimes we are in the situation where we need others to serve us.
Logistics of Doing a Family Foot Washing
Next, we did our family foot washing.
If you decide to try this with your family, I suggest figuring out the logistics ahead of time, in order to keep the foot washing time as a quiet and prayerful time.
What we did was to have each of the children wash one foot of each of their siblings. For example, one of Noah’s feet was washed by Molly and one by Jack, and so on. Then, the kids washed one of their Dad’s feet and I washed the other. And, they did the same thing for me.
It was all really thoughtful and beautiful.
And, really, we’re kind of a silly family sometimes. But, everyone was serious as we did it because I think even our littlest one understood the meaning in it.
I definitely am planning to have us do it again this year, and I’m hoping that, just maybe, this could become a beautiful family tradition.
And, maybe your family will want to do it this year too.
Does your family have any special traditions for Holy Week?
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Originally published April 8, 2009; Most recently updated in April 2017.