Holy Thursday, and What to Eat Thereon

One of the holiest days of the year is known by several names. Although in English-speaking countries it is usually known as “Holy Thursday,” its official liturgical title is “Thursday of the Lord’s Supper.” The holy day is also sometimes called “Maundy Thursday” after something that took place during the Last Supper, the washing of the feet. (Mandatum, whence “maundy” is derived, is the opening word of John 13:34 in Latin: Mandatum novum do vobis, or “A new commandment I give you.”) And in some countries, the day is known as “Clean Thursday.” Public penitents were not allowed to bathe during Lent as a part of their penance, but on this day they finally got to hit the showers before they were welcomed back into the Church by the bishop. The idea caught on, and soon everyone was bathing (a rare occurrence!) on Holy Thursday in preparation for Easter.

But the most perplexing name for the feast is “Green Thursday,” in the German, Slavic, and Hungarian languages. Is it a corruption of the German grünen, meaning to mourn, or is it indeed from grün, the German word for green? Is it derived from the custom of eating bitter greens like dandelions in imitation of the bitter herbs of the Jewish Passover? Or did the odd name cause the culinary custom?

Whatever the answer, several cultures have a tradition of eating some greens, or nothing but greens, on this day. In France and New Orleans, for example, it was considered good luck to make a soup from seven different greens on Holy Thursday. Our Godly Green Soup proudly stands in this tradition.

Godly Green Soup

Serves: 4–6 Cooking time: 45 minutes

2 Tbsps. olive oil, plus extra for end of cooking process
1 green pepper, chopped
1 cup green cabbage, chopped
1 cup kale leaves, minced
1 bunch spring onions, chopped
2 cups spinach

2 Tbsps. oregano
2 Tbsps. fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic
1 cup of small potatoes, peeled and boiled
4 quarts vegetable broth
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper

  1. To a large pot over high heat, add 2 Tbsps. of olive oil.
  2. When it starts to smoke, add the bell pepper, green cabbage, kale, and spring onions. Sauté until the vegetables begin to soften and are lightly blistered.
  3. Add the spinach, oregano, parsley, and garlic, mix together, and cook for 2–3 minutes.
  4. Add the potatoes and broth and bring to a simmer.
  5. Use an immersion blender to blend all of the ingredients together to a light creamy consistency.
  6. Serve with crusty bread and another light drizzle of olive oil on top of the soup.

Food for Thought

This is the night on which Our Lord was betrayed by a kiss (in fact, the kiss of peace used to be omitted on this night because the bitter aftertaste of the “Judas kiss” was too fresh on the minds of the faithful). Think about the people with whom you share a kiss, and pray that you will all be sincere in your affections and never use a sign of love as an act of treachery.

The preceding is an excerpt from Dining with the Saints: The Sinner’s Guide to a Righeous Feast by Fr. Leo Patalinghug and Michael Foley (Regnery, 2023)