Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter that is observed as per Christian rituals. This is a moveable feast to commemorate the triumphant entry of Jesus into the country of Jerusalem.

This event has been referred to in all the four Canonical Gospels. On this day, observant Christians who gather in the churches for service often walk in a procession carrying palms. This is to signify the branches of palm that were scattered by the crowd on the roads as Jesus entered Jerusalem.

In places where palm is not available, people often substitute it with branches of native trees like willow, yew, olive etc. As such this day also came to be referred as the Yew Sunday or Branch Sunday.

Palm Sunday in the next five years:

  • In 2014, Palm Sunday is on Sunday, April 13.
  • In 2015, Palm Sunday is on Sunday, March 29.
  • In 2016, Palm Sunday is on Sunday, March 20.
  • In 2017, Palm Sunday is on Sunday, April 09.
  • In 2018, Palm Sunday is on Sunday, March 25.

Beliefs and Traditions:

  • According to the four canonical Gospels, Jesus had a triumphant entry into Jerusalem a week before Resurrection. As Jesus approached Jerusalem, it is narrated that he took a look at the city and wept as if he had a pre notion about the suffering that the city was to experience.
  • In those days, it was the custom in the lands of Near East (Western Asia) to cover the path of travel with something for a person who is bestowed the highest of honor. According to the Hebrew Bible it is noted that as Jesus entered Jerusalem he was given this kind of honor. People lay garments, branches of trees and cut rushes on the streets for the purpose. This is also believed to have included fronds of palm. According to the Jewish tradition, the palm is one of the four plants mentioned in the Torah that is carried to rejoice in the occasion of Sukkot.
  • In the Greco Roman culture too the Palm Branch is considered to be a symbol of victory and triumph and is attributed to the Roman Goddess Nike who personifies victory. However, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is not likely to have been a symbol of victory till the 13th century.
  • According to the ancient Egyptian culture, palms represent eternal life and were often carried in funeral processions. This concept was later adopted in Christian customs where palm branches symbolized Christian martyrs to mark the victory of their spirits and the triumph over death.
  • During the 16th and the 17th centuries, Palm Sunday was the day to burn Jack-'o'-Lent figures. The straw effigy was first stoned and abused and then burnt to symbolize revenge on Judas Iscariot for his betrayal to Christ. It also marked destroying winter and welcoming the spring season.
  • The Palms used on this day are often stored in the churches to be burnt in the following year and use the ash so obtained to bless during the Ash Wednesday services.

Public Life in United States:

In the United States, this is not considered to be a federal holiday, as such businesses and organizations operate according to their regular schedule. However, since the observance occurs on a Sunday it becomes a non working day for many Americans, and most schools and institutions are closed on this day. The same is applicable in case of public transportation that runs as per schedule on this day.

Observances:

  • This day marks the beginning of the plays, pageants and concerts that are held to commemorate the Holy Week. Often these celebrations are organized or sponsored by the local church and are also held in their premises.
  • Some musical communities also perform sacred music during this period in their regular concerts. Among them, one of the oldest is Bethany College’s Messiah Festival that takes place in Lindsborg, Kansas, which has crossed 100 years of observance.
  • In Florida each year the town of St. Augustine sees the Blessing of the Fleet on this day. Fishing boats and trawlers including shrimp trawlers as well as privately owned water vessels visit the town of St. Augustine to receive blessings.
  • In homes and businesses many observant Americans place palm leaves in the shape of a Cross behind statues or images of religious nature.


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