What Is Palm Sunday and Why Do We Celebrate It?

Palm Sunday and Easter are beloved Christian traditions that don’t have a fixed date. Instead, the times for each depend on the lunar calendar, yet Palm Sunday always occurs on the Sunday before Easter. To some, Palm Sunday may simply mean going to church, but these religious traditions have a deep-rooted, meaningful story to others.

What is Palm Sunday?

According to Christians, Palm Sunday is a celebration for honoring Jesus Christ’s victorious entry into Jerusalem. While this was a joyful, special occasion for his followers, this event took place towards the end of his days on Earth before being crucified.

What does the ‘Palm’ in Palm Sunday mean?

The story says that as Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey (donkeys signify peace and humility), his followers laid out tree palms among other items in front of his path, which demonstrated unwavering respect. The palms represent peace and victory in this immense act of adoration. Fast forward to today, and it’s evident that people from all around the world celebrate this special occasion in a variety of ways.

What does Palm Sunday consist of today?

Palm Sunday is the official start of Holy Week, and the commemoration colors are red and white, due to the blood that Jesus spilled while on the cross. Churches enact a procession where palms are blessed and given to participants who then carry them into the Church.

The fact that these palms are blessed means that they aren’t disposed of, like any ordinary palms. Instead, some churchgoers take them home or save them so they can turn them into ashes for Ash Wednesday.

Since palms aren’t typical of every climate in the world, many believers around the world have replaced palms with other types of tree leaves. Additionally, different countries have unique Palm Sunday customs, some of which are:
India: In India, flowers are scattered around the sanctuary at mass while churchgoers listen to the gospel. The priests bless the palms and later give them to mass attendees. However, why use flowers in particular? Indians trace this custom back to Hindu tradition in which flowers are utilized for festive occasions.

Philippines: Filipino worshippers on Palm Sunday still practice Spanish-influenced traditions and customs, one of which is to bring their woven palm leaves, which the priest blesses. Some also use statues or the priest to lead a procession into the church to reenact Jesus’ entrance, while children with angel costumes sing.

Italy: Celebrating Palm Sunday in Rome and around Italy consists of a long ceremony and a seriously large crowd of people. In Rome, it starts at 9:30 am where the Pope goes to St. Peter’s Square to start Palm Sunday Mass. He also participates in the blessing and procession of palms. The entire ceremony usually last for around 3 hours.

On a national level, Italians either use palms or olive branches for their celebrations, since olive trees are much more common in their climate.

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