Sunday, April 5, 2009

party phD: Palm Sunday

Photo Credit: Eric Molina

Palm Sunday is a Christian Feast Day which falls on the Sunday before Easter.
Palm Sunday ranks as one of Christianity's holiest days, second only to Christmas and Easter. It falls on the last Sunday of Lent and marks the beginning of Holy Week. It is called a 'moveable feast' as it is not celebrated on the same day each year. In 2009, Palm Sunday will be celebrated on Sunday April 5th. This day commemorates the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem before his Passion and Crucifixion.

The significance of Jesus riding a donkey and having his way paved with palm branches is a fulfillment of a prophecy spoken by the prophet Zechariah. In biblical times, the regional custom called for kings and nobles arriving in procession to ride on the back of a donkey. The donkey was a symbol of peace; those who rode upon them proclaimed peaceful intentions. The laying of palm branches indicated that the king or dignitary was arriving in victory or triumph.

The scene of the crowd greeting Jesus by waving palms and carpeting his path with them has given this Christian feast its name. In the Gospel of John, he specifically mentions palm fronds which were a symbol of triumph and of victory, in Jewish tradition, and is treated in other parts of the Bible as such.

Palm Sunday traditions are long-standing. The ceremony begins with the blessing of the palms. The procession follows, then Mass is celebrated. Afterward, many people take the palms home and place them in houses, barns, and fields.

In some countries, palms are placed on the graves of the departed. In colder northern climates, where palm trees are not found, branches of yew, willow, and sallow trees are used. The palms blessed in the ceremony are burned at the end of the day. The ashes are then preserved for next year's Ash Wednesday celebration.

Figs are sometimes considered a traditional Palm Sunday food because Jesus had wanted to eat figs on his journey into Jerusalem. Some people refer to Palm Sunday as 'Fig Sunday' and make foods containing figs. Click here for some fig recipes.

Palm Sunday is an occasion for reflecting on the final week of Jesus' life. It is a time for Christians to prepare their hearts for the agony of His Passion and the joy of His Resurrection.


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