Christian: Begin Holy Week with Palm Sunday

http://www.readthespirit.com/religious-holidays-festivals/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2013/03/wpid-SF_412_Palm_Sunday_branches.jpgPhoto in public domainSUNDAY, APRIL 1: A billion-plus Christians enter Holy Week and head toward Easter on Palm Sunday!
(REMEMBER: This year, Eastern Christians in various Orthodox churches celebrate Easter a week later.)

ReadTheSpirit continues to bring you inspiring Lenten Voices, like this one from runner-writer Lyda Hawkes. But, finally, the journey is almost over—marked by the ancient story of Jesus’ donkey ride into Jerusalem. Biblical accounts and artists through the centuries describe overjoyed people in the streets of Jerusalem celebrating Jesus’s entry by throwing down of cloaks and palm branches in his path. (Wikipedia has details.) How quickly events will turn within a week, Chrisians recall today amid the waving fronds.

As Jesus rode slowly into Jerusalem, the gathered crowd began singing from Psalms: “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Today, Christians regard this entry as the fulfillment of a prediction in Zacharias; as such, many churches distribute their own fresh palm branches. (Read more at CatholicCulture.) In climates where palm branches aren’t available, other tree branches—yew, box and willow, for example—are distributed instead. A church-wide procession often follows the blessing of the branches.

What happens to those branches after they’re distributed? In many congregations, members save them in their homes. Traditional Catholics tend to tuck them behind a crucifix. Some countries pride themselves on the historical tradition of tying elaborate shapes with the fresh palms. (Learn how to tie your own palms, and learn more customs, at FishEaters.) In many churches, the branches are saved until the next year’s Ash Wednesday, when they are burned as a source of ashes.

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