Easter Traditions: Palm Sunday
Palm Sunday is the first day of Holy Week leading up to Easter. It is a Christian moveable feast which falls on the Sunday before Easter and is mentioned in all four gospels. Holy Week is also the final week of Lent.
This year as with last year Easter will again be somewhat different because of the coronavirus pandemic, self-isolating, lockdown and churches still closed.
The church buildings might be closed but churches are finding other ways to meet together in their homes. If the virus had hit five years ago it would have been a different story as today churches are finding a variety of ways to stay connected via Social media. Lots of churches are now quite familiar with holding worship via Zoom.
When is Holy Week?
The first day of Holy Week is Palm Sunday. This is the Sunday before Easter Day and the day Christians now celebrate Jesus riding into Jerusalem for the Passover. Jesus rode on a donkey as a sign of peace rather than a war-waging king on a horse.
Holy Week 2021 starts on Sunday 28 March and ends on Saturday 3 April the day before Easter Sunday on 4 April. Holy Week is also the last week of Lent.
Why called Palm Sunday?
It has been given the name of Palm Sunday because the people were pleased to see Jesus who they knew to be important. It was the custom in Roman times to welcome royalty by waving palm branches and often spreading them on the road.
Palm trees grew on the side of the road and the people took some branches and waved them in the air and shouted 'Hosanna' (which means 'God Saves' in Hebrew). They also put some branches on the road to make it easier for the donkey to walk on the rocky road.
The Passover Festival dates from about 4,000 years ago when Jewish people remember that God saved them from slavery in Egypt. Jesus was a Jew and so celebrated the Passover. The Jewish calendar follows the cycle of the moon, so the date changes a bit every year.
Sometimes Palm Sunday is called Passion Sunday as Holy Week reminds us of Jesus' passion or death.
It is the custom in churches all over the world to give out small crosses made from palm leaves on Palm Sunday as a reminder of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem and his death on the cross. The crosses are usually made from folded strips of dried palm leaves.