Palm Sunday: Christians enter Holy Week, recall Passion of Jesus

Main aisle of church with palms

Churchgoers on Palm Sunday in Toronto. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SUNDAY, APRIL 14: With Easter on the horizon and the Passion of Jesus at hand, Western Christians begin preparations for the pivotal week to come on Palm Sunday, commemorating Jesus’s ceremonial entry into Jerusalem. Holy Week commences with Palm Sunday, and according to all four canonical Gospels, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. In joyful exultation, the crowds that had gathered in Jerusalem laid down clothing and small branches in his path.

EASTERN CHRISTIANS will mark Palm Sunday one week later, on April 21, in 2019.

THE PALM BRANCH: A MULTI-FACETED SYMBOL

Thousands of years ago, palm branches symbolized integrity and triumph. The palm-branch symbol sometimes showed up on coins and decorated important buildings and temples. In Roman Catholic, Anglican and many Protestant congregations, palm fronds are blessed and distributed on Palm Sunday. Though local species of branches may be substituted where palm fronds are unavailable—for example, box, yew, willow and olive branches are also used, among others—the branch most widely distributed is the palm. In some parishes, a procession also occurs on this Sunday. The blessed palms, regarded as sacred objects in the Catholic Church, are often kept behind household crucifixes or holy pictures and, tradition says, these fronds could be burned at next year’s Ash Wednesday services.

PALM BRAIDING

Every  year our readers ask for tips on palm braiding, so here are this year’s best tips:

Watch tutorials on palm braiding, or use step-by-step instructions, with help from U.S. Catholic.org, YouTube, Catholic Inspired and Fish Eaters.

In countries where palm fronds are widely available, such as Spain and Mexico, the weaving of intricate designs and figures is common practice on Palm Sunday. In Latvia, pussy willows are blessed and, traditionally, used to swat children awake on the morning of Palm Sunday. In Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria, Palm Sunday is an occasion for family and is extremely popular, complete with palm weaving, processions and a splashing of holy water. In the Philippines, Jesus’ entry in Jerusalem is reenacted.

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Categories: Christian

Palm Sunday: Holy Week begins with Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem

Children walking down aisle, palm fronds held by church members, bishop in background

Palm Sunday 2014 at Westminster Cathedral. Photo by Catholic Church England and Wales, courtesy of Flickr

SUNDAY, MARCH 29: With Easter just one week away, Western Christians (Catholic and Protestant) begin preparations for the pivotal week to come. The liturgical calendar for Eastern Orthodox Christians is a week later for this season.

Holy Week commences with Palm Sunday, the feast commemorating Jesus’ ceremonial entry into Jerusalem. (Eastern Christians mark Palm Sunday on April 5, this year.) According to all four canonical Gospels, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. In joyful exultation, the crowds that had gathered in Jerusalem laid down clothing and small branches in his path. (Learn more from Catholic Culture.)

THE PALM BRANCH: YESTERDAY AND TODAY

Thousands of years ago, palm branches symbolized integrity and triumph. The palm-branche symbol sometimes showed up on coins and decorated important buildings and temples. In Roman Catholic, Anglican and many Protestant congregations, palm fronds are blessed and distributed on Palm Sunday. Though local species of branches may be substituted where palm fronds are unavailable—for example, box, yew, willow and olive branches are also used, among others—the branch most widely distributed is the palm. (Wikipedia has details.) In some parishes, a procession also occurs on this Sunday. The blessed palms, regarded as sacred objects in the Catholic Church, are often kept behind household crucifixes or holy pictures and, tradition says, these fronds could be burned at next year’s Ash Wednesday services.

PALM BRAIDING

Palms waving on Palm SundayEvery  year our readers ask for tips on palm braiding, so here are this year’s best tips: Watch tutorials on palm braiding, or use step-by-step instructions, with help from U.S. Catholic.org, YouTube, Catholic Inspired and Fish Eaters.

In countries where palm fronds are widely available, such as Spain and Mexico, the weaving of intricate designs and figures is common practice on Palm Sunday. In Latvia, pussy willows are blessed and, traditionally, used to swat children awake on the morning of Palm Sunday. In Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria, Palm Sunday is an occasion for family and is extremely popular, complete with palm weaving, processions and a splashing of holy water. In the Philippines, Jesus’ entry in Jerusalem is reenacted.

Did you know? Aside from palm braiding, Palm Sunday is sometimes considered a customary time to eat figs, in light of Jesus’s interaction with a fig tree after his entry into Jerusalem. In addition, Palm Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are considered the ideal time to thoroughly clean the home, so that Thursday, Friday and Saturday may be set aside to focus on Christ’s passion and the home may be spotless for Easter.

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Categories: Christian

YOM YERUSHALAYIM: Jews unite with the Old City on Jerusalem Day

Crowd of Jews dressed waving Israeli flags

Jews rejoice for Jerusalem on Yom Yerushalayim. Photo in public domain

WEDNESDAY, MAY 8: Thousands of Israeli flags wave high through the streets of Jerusalem today—many as part of the annual Flag Parade—as Jews in the Old City mark Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day). Historically, Jews recall the reunification of Jerusalem and the institution of Israeli control over the Old City, in 1967; religiously, Jews thank G_d for answering their millennia-old plea of, “Next year in Jeruslaem” and rejoice for their ability to, once again, pray at the Western Wall. (Learn more about the Jewish flag in this piece from the Jewish Press.)

Contrary to the popularity of Israel’s national day, Yom Ha’atzmaut, Yom Yerushalayim is rarely commemorated by those outside of Israel; some liberal Jews even find the holiday disconcerting, due to the continuing conflicts over the Old City. In Jerusalem, however, special prayers are recited in every synagogue; schoolchildren learn the significance of the Old City; state ceremonies are conducted and Jews sing and dance in the streets. (Aish.com has related stories and more.) Today, Jews across Israel hike, bike and drive to Jerusalem, visually declaring their solidarity with the Old City.

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Categories: Jewish