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Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox.  Maundy Thursday is always the Thursday before the Easter weekend. In 2012 Maundy Thursday is on April 5th and in 2013 it falls on March 28th.

In Greece and Bulgaria, eggs are painted red on Maundy Thursday, the egg being symbolic of birth, rebirth and new beginnings, and the colour red representing the blood of Jesus. According to legend is said that Mary Magdalene, who was the first to see Jesus risen from the dead, went around the world telling of the news. She arrived at the Emperor Tiberius’s palace in Rome, where according to tradition, everyone visiting must present a gift to the Emperor. Mary presented the Emperor with an egg and greeted him with the words “Christ has risen from the dead!” In disbelief, the Emperor said that this was as likely as the white egg in Mary’s hand turning red. No sooner had he spoken the words when the egg started to change colour until it finally turned bright red.

In Sweden, Maundy Thursday is called Skärtorsdagen and is related to old folklore as the day of the witches. Children dress up as witches and knock on doors receiving Easter eggs or money. The tradition predates Christian times coming from a pagan belief relating to the Spring Equinox, that on this day witches flew off on broomsticks to dance with the devil at Blåkulla.

A rather odd Slovakian tradition the Thursday of Easter week was to bring an anthill into the house complete with ants in the belief that it would bring yearlong happiness and an abundance of food. There was one important proviso, however, the anthill must not be carried over water or all efforts would be in vain.

The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin word mandatum, meaning “commandment,” referring to the commands Jesus is said to have given his disciples at the Last Supper – to love one another and remember his sacrifice.

In many Christian churches the “Washing of the Feet” is a traditional part of the celebration, as Jesus is said to have washed the feet of his Apostles at the last supper. Many churches also carry out Maundy Thursday rites that include handing out special coins known as “Maundy money” to the poor and elderly.