If spring is coming, so is Easter with its Easter brunch spreads and Easter egg hunts. But before we get there in the Christian calendar, Holy Week takes place, with Palm Sunday kicking off the seven days leading into the celebratory holiday.
Since the date of Easter Sunday changes every year, Palm Sunday does too. Both dates are determined by the lunar calendar, with Easter falling the first Sunday after the first full moon that happens after March 21. That means Easter arrives every year sometime between March 22 and April 25. Good Friday is always two days before Easter, and Palm Sunday consistently takes place seven days before Easter on a Sunday. For 2023, that Palm Sunday date is April 2, 2023, and looking ahead to 2024, it will be March 24, 2023. Here's all you need to know about Palm Sunday and how Christians, and Catholics in particular, celebrate it.
What is Palm Sunday?
Palm Sunday marks the day Jesus returned to Jerusalem. He rode into the city on a donkey, which symbolized that he was a king who came in peace. His faithful placed palm leaves in front of his path. In placing the palm leaves in front of Jesus, his believers demonstrated they accepted him as their redeemer. In the days to follow, Jesus would be betrayed, tried, and crucified before his divine resurrection.
The first day of Holy Week, Palm Sunday occurs on the final Sunday of the Christian religious observance of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday and leads up to Easter.
How is Palm Sunday celebrated?
Every culture and religion has their own traditions for Palm Sunday. For Catholics, palm leaves are typically given to parishioners prior to the start of mass. Many believers save, dry, and then braid the palm leaves. The braided leaves are placed on a crucifix on display in their home and then replaced the following year. The church also saves the palms and burns them in the following year to create the ashes used on Ash Wednesday.
Easter is the most important religious holiday in some Catholic countries such as France, Italy, and Spain. Palm Sunday marks the beginning of celebrations, and the faithful mark the occasion by wearing long robes and participating in candle-carrying processions. Palm Sunday scripture and relevant Bible verses are also traditionally read during these ceremonies.
Where do the palms come from?
Many Protestant churches in the U.S. also observe the holiday with palms. That means millions of palm leaves are needed for the holidays.
In the U.S., palm tree farms are devoted to preparing for the event. Churches work with suppliers to have the fresh, trimmed palms delivered right before the holiday. Some suppliers also handle burning the palms into ashes if the church is unable to do so.
Unlike Christmas tree farms, palm tree farms do not cut down the tree. The farms are typically located in warm weather climates such as Florida and Texas.
What is the history of Palm Sunday?
Early Christians did not celebrate Easter. When they began marking Easter, they tied the celebration date to Passover because Jesus died during the holiday. This changed in the fourth century when Christian leaders began using the lunar calendar to set the holiday.
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