Palm Sunday Observed by Christians Around the World
Palm Sunday is a religious observance for Christians all over the world. Palm Sunday is the last Sunday of Lent and marks the beginning of Holy Week. It is a celebration of the entrance of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem where he was welcomed by the people of the city with branches from the palm trees days before he was to be crucified.
History of Palm Sunday:
Before Jesus entered Jerusalem to meet his death at the hands of the Romans and the Jewish authorities, he stayed in Bethany where he resurrected Lazarus. He sent some of the disciples ahead of him to get a donkey on which he could be carried as he entered Jerusalem. Additionally, he asked the owner of the house to prepare the Upper Room for the Last Supper.
As he was riding the donkey and nearing the city, everybody started to cheer him, for they believed he was the Messiah promised in the Scriptures to save them, and they remembered the recent miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus. While many people laid their clothes on the floor for Jesus to pass riding the donkey, others picked up branches from the palm trees, chanting: “Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
Christians began to celebrate Palm Sunday as the first day of Holy Week, and they have been doing so since the eighth or ninth century. The main liturgical ceremonies of the day are: the blessing of the palms, the procession of the entrance of Jesus in Nazareth, the daily Mass, and the singing of the Passion during Mass. Palm branches are common symbols of joy and victory over enemies, and in Christianity, they are signs of victory over the flesh and the world.
There are many traditions on this day. In Roman times, the emperors used to distribute small presents and branches of palm among their nobles and domestic helpers. And form early celebrations of the day, palms have been blessed and used in Mass. On this day, olive branches are blessed as symbols of Jesus prayer on Mount Olive. In some countries, the crosses made with palm branches are decorated with flowers and are cut to make beautiful ornaments. In the Netherlands, they are decorated with candies and bread. The palm branches are kept after the celebrations and held in front of the houses as a sign of welcome to Jesus and all men of good faith.
In Catholic South American countries and in the Philippines, where the Christina faith is still effervescent, it is usual to re-enact the entrance of Jesus in Jerusalem with the priest arriving at the church riding a donkey while people great him with the palm branches and lay clothes on the ground. In other countries, like Portugal, it is a normal day where the ritual of Mass differs from the usual ritual, and the branches are used at the beginning of the Mass, while not much attention is given to these old traditions that seem to fall out of interest for the younger generations.