How We Do the Triduum: Holy Thursday

by | Mar 25, 2013 | April, Lent, Lent, Liturgical Living, Parenting, Parties, Seasonal | 8 comments

As the end of Lent comes in to sight, I like to focus on one of my favorite things about this time of year: saying the word Triduum.  Seriously, how great is that word?  It’s right up there with trousers, gubernatorial, and ladle.
But the Triduum is more than just fun to say, it’s also fun to do.  (If you do it right.) 
There is some confusion about when Lent actually ends, mostly because the answer to that question is, “it depends.”  The liturgical season of Lent ends before the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, at which time the Easter Triduum begins.  The Easter Triduum is its own liturgical season, the shortest of the year.
That said, what most people are really asking is: when can I abandon my Lenten disciplines?  That answer is, well, except for no meat on Fridays, they were voluntary this whole time . . . but the 40 days of Lenten penance ends on Holy Saturday.  So it would be appropriate to continue your Lenten disciplines through end of business on Saturday.  Our big kids love that going to the Vigil means they can get a head start on treat-eating over their sleeping younger siblings.
Throughout Lent, we celebrate both the fasts AND the feasts.  And the same holds true for the Triduum.  Holy Thursday is a bit of a paradox just in of itself.  We commemorate the institution of the Eucharist and the priesthood, truly something to celebrate.  But we also remember that it was on this day that Our Lord was betrayed by a friend, and arrested.  So, happy and sad. But, as a family, we focus mostly on creating our own Last Supper.

For dinner we do a modified seder meal.  We are not obliged to celebrate Passover, of course, because Jesus’ sacrifice ushered in a new covenant.  But I still think it’s fun to approximate what Jesus and his friends ate that night.

I serve . . .

Bitter Herbs:

Trader Joe’s Herb Salad Mix, with Lemon Shallot Dressing (recipe on the bag) is perfect!

2024 Update: You can find the salad recipe that we currently use here!

Roasted lamb:

Update 2024: Grab the recipe here!

Applesauce (I tried making haroset one year and my kids didn’t like it, so we just do applesauce) and some sort of potato dish (knish, or kugel, or latke).  I’m making knishes this year:

Update 2024: Grab the recipe here!

Unleavened bread:

I’m going to try making Homemade Matzah this year!

Update 2024: Grab the recipe here!

And wine for the grownups and grape juice for the kiddos.

And now the good part:

We have a Lamb Cake.  But Lamb Cakes really teeter on that edge between adorable and terrifying (it’s a bold choice of color on that cake) so I just mold one out of Rice Krispie treats.  I make a batch of treats, dump it on wax paper and let it cool until I can comfortably touch it*.  Then, with well-buttered hands, I look at a picture of a lamb cake and just mold it into shape.  The whole process takes about 20 minutes.  I might slave for hours on a “real” lamb cake and still end up with something that’s just going to freak everyone out, so I don’t.

Update 2024: Grab the recipe that we use now here!


Since the Mass of Our Lord’s Supper is too late for my little ones, we do the readings at the table after dinner, then pick names from a hat and wash each other’s feet here at home.  

I love the concept of The Seven Churches of Maundy Thursday, but I don’t love the idea of keeping the kids up so late at the beginning of a big holiday weekend.  (I don’t know about yours, but if my kids stay up late two nights out of three they all immediately get sick.)  So this year, I’m planning to skip school and spend the mid-morning visiting seven churches with the kids.  I’d love to walk, but what you’ve heard about LA is true, so we’ll drive.  I’m sure it won’t be quite as poetic as going late at night to the altars of repose, but as I’ve learned with lots of Catholic traditions, if you’ve got little kids and you’re not willing to be flexible, then you’re probably just not going to do much.

Come back tomorrow for how we do Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

* The husband would like to point out that what I have just said is not true at all.  Letting it cool down until you can comfortably touch it is what you SHOULD do, but my desire to be DOING SOMETHING combined with my constant assumption that things will probably be fine and my confidence in my ability to heal from minor burns means that I pretty much never wait long enough.


  1. Nanacamille

    The last paragraph you unfortunately inherited from me and as I never put on the heavy gloves to take racks of hot food out of the airplane ovens I have asbestos fingers with very little finger print left on them. Do try to take a big breath and let it cool down a bit.

  2. Diana Anderson

    Love your traditions so I am going to copy you! Thank you for the inspiration.

  3. Sarah Doll

    We did the seder meal growing up as a child and I thought it was fascinating. Do you know if there is a debate whether or not we should celebrate it? I didn't think there was until I listened to this priest' homily on the subject:

    I was pretty surprised at what he said about celebrating the seder meal and haven't had chance to get other Catholics opinions on the topic. I would love to know what you think.

  4. Kendra Tierney

    I'm not able to listen the the homily right now, but thanks so much for this question.

    I think I should have been clearer about the fact that we are not in any way attempting to actually celebrate any Jewish rituals. I think that might be inappropriate because:

    1. not coming from a Jewish background I wouldn't know HOW to, and I certainly wouldn't want to offend our Jewish brothers and sisters by playing at their religion,
    2. It's not necessary, because Jesus has created a New Covenant (new wines into old wineskins and all that), and
    3. It's not approved by the Church as a public devotion (although it's also not forbidden as a private one).

    The "seder" aspect of our meal is limited to the food selection. Beyond that our traditions, like reading from the gospel and washing feet are all based in the New Testament.

    I really wasn't aware of a debate either until you brought it up, but Michelle Arnold goes into some detail on it at Catholic Answers.

    This is one of those issues on which (until there is a decisive answer from the Bishops) good Catholics can disagree.

    Thanks again for your question!

    • Amy S.

      I recognize this post is several years old, but this has been on my mind recently. We will celebrate the passover seder this year. I can't decide if we will do it on Holy Thursday or Good Friday (passover actually begins on the evening of Good Friday this year.) I have a Messianic Jewish background and came into the Church in 2010. More importantly though, I cannot for the life of me figure out how we can pretend to understand that Jesus is our Passover Lamb if we don't actually know what Passover is or how to celebrate it. I have read Michelle Arnold and many others and, although I respect that they know much more than me, I just simply don't agree. Michelle writes "I worry that many Catholics do not know enough about Judaism or Jewish ritual to create their own seder so that is both meaningful to Catholics and respectful of Jewish religious practice and belief." THIS IS THE PROBLEM, GUYS. We're grafted in, but we have no clue what kind of vine we are a part of. Anywho, there is a Messianic Haggadah written by Barry Rubin that is wonderful. And the Passover points so clearly to the Messiah. I'll be using the meal to help my children understand the Jewish custom and, thereby, help them understand how Jesus is now the paschal lamb and He is present in the Eucharist. Scott Hahn has a great talk called "The Fourth Cup" that explains a lot of things that Catholics (and really most Christians) miss about the Eucharist because we have no understanding of the passover seder. Also, I make a mean matzo ball soup.

    • EmCath

      Thank you for your insight! I think it’s so important to remember that Jesus was born into a Jewish culture, and that those celebrations were a part of his life – but that he then fulfilled them. I definitely wish and hope and plan to incorporate more traditions into our home life because of how important that home life culture is, and how much the kids can learn from how we as parents act on our faith. I definitely think that to be a good catholic, we should know about the history of Judaism and it’s proclamation, as Jesus then fulfilled the messianic prophecy of Judaism.

  5. Unknown

    We follow Passover in remembrance of Yeshua. We are not Jewish but we are grafted into the vine. We read the Bible and follow instructions from there. Blessings!


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Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

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