Palm Sunday History, Symbolism, and Celebrations
In many Episcopal and Catholic denominations, worshipers carry palms in a procession of faith commemorating a special event that took place in the Bible. In some place, procuring palms is a challenge. The worshipers result to using a more readily available alternative. In the end, it is the thought that counts. This article is going to discuss Palm Sunday and its significance to many Christians globally.
What Is Palm Sunday?
On Palm Sunday, Christians celebrate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The event took place on the week before his death and resurrection. For many Christians, Palm Sunday is the start of the Holy Week, which ends on Easter Sunday. In the Bible, Jesus arrived into the City on a donkey. The crowds showed him respect by spreading their palm branches and cloaks on the streets. This was done as a way to honor the man whom they believed was their long awaited King and Messiah. Everyone in Jerusalem came out that day to witness as the Messiah returned to Jerusalem.
When Do We Celebrate Palm Sunday?
Palm Sunday takes place on the final Sunday before the start of Easter.
The History of Palm Sunday
The Palm Sunday celebrations began in the church of Jerusalem. This was around the end of the fourth century. In the early days, Palm Sunday was celebrated with hymns, prayers, and sermons. People would visit the various holy sites that were found around the city. At the site where Jesus ascended to heaven, the clergy would read about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. In the evening, they would go back to church, and the kids would carry olive and palm branches.
By the fifth century, the Palm Sunday celebrations had spread beyond Jerusalem and reached as far as Constantinople. In the sixth and seventh centuries, changes were made, which led to two new rituals as part of Palm Sunday. These were a morning procession instead of an evening one, and the ritual blessings of the palms. It was also at this time, the event became known as Palm Sunday.
In those days, the dramatic celebrations of Palm Sunday became more and more restricted to a procession around the church. The crucifix in the churchyard was festively decorated using flowers. The procession would usually come to a halt at this place. As the clergy sang their hymns, the congregation would disperse among the tombs. Family members would also kneel at the grave of a loved one. They would sprinkle holy water over the grave, and the procession would then enter the church. In some places such as France and England, Christians still visit cemeteries and decorate graves on Palm Sunday.
Most of the rites and ceremonies of the ancient times have disappeared. However, the sacred texts have remained intact. In most places today, the procession and the blessing of palms are performed inside the church. In the U.S., the church distributes palms to the congregation.
Palm Sunday Celebrations
In most places in the ancient world, a procession composed of clergy with palms moved from a chapel on the outskirts of the town carrying palms to the main church in the city. Jesus Christ was represented in this procession by a crucifix adorned with flowers, which was carried by the celebrant. In the middle ages, it was customary to draw a wooden statue of Christ on a donkey in the procession.
Today, the blessing of palms and procession are confined to within the church. However, in some places, there are still long processions to sites that are considered holy. Members of the congregation are allowed to take an active role in the Palm Sunday ceremony.
However, in most of the developed world, the ceremony is short compared to past days when it was an elaborate ceremony. In some places such as Bavaria and Austria, farmers and their families walk through the fields and buildings on the Palm Sunday afternoon. They pray and sing ancient hymns. The people will also place blessed palms in each pasture lot and in every stable and barn. They do this to avert tragedies resulting from bad weather or illness.
In short, the Palm Sunday ceremony is a time for Christians to reflect on the final week of the life of Jesus. It is a time during which every Christian prepares for the agony that Jesus will experience in the coming week. Thus, it is a time to prepare their hearts and minds for his death and resurrection. This time is a period for those who identify Christ as their Lord and Savior to cultivate a more meaningful relationship with him.