An Elizabethan Maundy, a miniature of Queen Elizabeth observing the tradition of a Maundy with the common people. The miniature is by Elizabethan female court painter Leevina Teerlinc. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
Holy Week during Eastertide constitutes the week beginning on Palm Sunday and culminating in Easter Sunday. On Palm Sunday – the Sunday before Easter – processions traveled through the streets to churches with parishioners carrying “English Palms” or sallow willows in honor of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. The willows would be formed into crosses and kept in homes for protection from evil for the year until the following Palm Sunday. This was a practice that was attacked during the Protestant Reformation. Figs, pies and puddings were often eaten on Palm Sunday.
Maundy Thursday (which followed Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday) commemorates the washing of the feet and the Last Supper of Jesus and his apostles. Priests, aristocrats and rulers were to wash the feet of 12 poor men on this day. Later this number changed to correspond with the age of the current monarch. Maundy comes from the word “mandatum”, or command. Jesus’ mandate to his followers was to love one another as he loved them.
Good Friday is the sorrowful remembrance day of Jesus’ crucifixion. Tudor clergy, followed by their congregations, would move to the cross on their hands and knees and kiss Christ’s feet. This was referred to as “creeping to the cross”. The Host or an image of Christ would be placed in a sepulcher of stone or wood that was sealed with a cloth. Candles were lit and the "tomb" was guarded through Holy Saturday until Easter morning. On this day the earth could not be disturbed with plowing or planting and no cooking in iron (reminiscent of the nails through Christ’s hands and feet) was allowed. Witches were also supposed to be active on this day.
Photo courtesy of tudortravelguide.com Spiced buns, originating in the Roman Empire, were traditionally sold on Good Friday, one of only three times in the year when it was legal, the others being Christmas and funerals. They buns symbolized the bread given to Jesus on the road to Calvary. Spiced buns have been a symbol of worship in England since pagan times. Another name for this bread is “cross buns” because of the cross shape scored or piped onto it surface. The spices in the recipe represent Jesus’ embalming spices. It wasn’t until the 18th century nursery rhyme that these buns were dubbed “hot cross buns”. If you hang a hot cross bun from your kitchen rafters on Good Friday, legend has it that the bread will remain fresh and mold-free throughout the entire year and can be used to cure illness. Easter is associated with pagan spring festivals and most probably got its name from “Eostur”, the Norse word for the spring season. On Easter Sunday morning, Tudor church services praised the resurrection of Christ and his saving power. The candles were extinguished in the church and the lights were rebuilt with fresh flames before the doors were thrown open and services began. Feasting after services was jovial and offered plenty of dairy products and meat such as roasted ox, lamb and veal. “Pace” eggs were dyed with natural dyes like madder, onion skin and woad to be used as gifts and for games. There were sports, games and dancing. The jack o' Lent that was created for the previous season of repentance was destroyed on Easter day . Theanneboleynfiles.com A Lancashire Calendar for 1631, by Kathleen R. Sands, 1994.