Palm Sunday in Western Christianity Date in the current year: April 14, 2019

Palm Sunday in Western Christianity Palm Sunday is a Christian movable feast that commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as described in the four canonical Gospels. It is celebrated on the Sunday before Easter.

According to each of the four Gospels, Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem a week before his Resurrection, riding a donkey. People laid their clothes and palm branches in front of Jesus to welcome him. Entering the city on a donkey is believed to symbolize arriving in peace, as the horse was considered the animal of war.

Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem marks the beginning of the Passion of Jesus, the short final period of his life leading to Jesus Christ’s crucifixion on Mount Cavalry. Palm Sunday, accordingly, marks the beginning of Holy Week, the final week of Lent that leads up to Easter Sunday.

In most denominations, Palm Sunday is celebrated with solemn processions where the faithful carry palm branches, which are blessed outside the church. Palm branches have been considered a symbol of victory and goodness since ancient times, but in this particular case they symbolize the branches that the crowd laid in front of Jesus as he entered Jerusalem.

In unfavorable climates, palm branches can be substituted with native trees, such as boxwood, yew, willow, or olive. In such cases, the holiday is often named after these substitute trees or by the general term Branch Sunday. It is customary in many churches to save the blessed branches and burn them the following year on Ash Wednesday.

Depending on the church, the procession may include the normal liturgical procession of clergy and acolytes, the parish choir, or the entire congregation. In some Protestant churches, only children participate in the procession.

Many countries have specific traditions associated with Palm Sunday. In Finland, for example, there’s a custom somewhat similar to Halloween trick-or-treating where children dress up as witches, go from house to house, and trade decorated pussy willow branches for candy and coins. A similar tradition exists in Sweden, but it is associated with Good Friday rather than Palm Sunday.

In the predominantly Catholic Philippines, Holy Week is one of the most significant religious observances. The celebration of Palm Sunday features a morning procession that involves the presiding priest riding a horse or a statue of Jesus Christ riding a donkey. Women cover the route of the procession with large aprons or skirts called tapis, symbolizing the clothes that people used to cover the road in front of Jesus.

Many towns and villages in Poland host artificial palm competitions. Artificial palms decorated with paper flowers can be as high as 30 meters. The best known competitions are held in the villages of Lipnica Murowana and Łyse.

In some countries, Palm Sunday is referred to as Flower’s Day. Interestingly, this includes the Indian state of Kerala, where there is a significant Christian community. In Indian churches, flowers are scattered about the sanctuary, as the congregation welcomes Jesus by uttering, “Hosanna!”

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Religious Holidays

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Palm Sunday, Holy Week, Christian feast, religious holiday, Jesus' entry into Jerusalem