The Sunday preceding Easter is Palm Sunday, the Christian portable feast. Its name comes from the palm branches that the multitude waved in greeting and adoration of Jesus. Each of the four canonical Gospels mentions Christ’s triumphant arrival into Jerusalem, which the feast honors. Because Passion Sunday can also refer to the fifth Sunday of Lent, the day is also known as “Passion Sunday” because the Gospel account of Jesus’ Passion is read during its liturgical commemoration. Palm Sunday, the first day of Holy Week, the sorrowful season of Lent’s final week that precedes Eastertide, is observed by Western Christians as the beginning of Holy Week.
The blessing and distribution of palm branches (or the branches of other local trees) in most Christian celebrations of Palm Sunday serve as a symbolic representation of the palm branches that the crowd threw in front of Christ as he rode into Jerusalem. Crosses can sometimes be made out of these palms. Because getting palms in unfavorable conditions was challenging, branches from local trees, like box, olive, willow, and yew, were substituted. As in Yew Sunday or simply Branch Sunday, the Sunday was frequently named after these replacement trees. It is commonly referred to as Oshana Sunday or Hosanna Sunday in Syriac Christianity because of the biblical words that the crowd shouted when Jesus entered Jerusalem.
During Palm Sunday services, many Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Anglican, and Reformed churches give out palm branches to their parishioners. Many Christians bring these palms, which are frequently blessed by clergy, inside their homes and hang them next to Christian artwork (particularly crosses and crucifixes) or store them in their Bibles and daily devotional books. Churches frequently place a basket in their narthex to collect these palms during the Shrovetide season that precedes the following year’s Lent. These palms are then ceremonially burned on Shrove Tuesday to create the ashes that will be used on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, the following day.
The Gospels claim that when Jesus Christ arrived in Jerusalem on a donkey, the city’s revelers put down their cloaks and tiny tree branches in front of him while singing a portion Pof Psalm 118:25–26, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” From the Lord’s house, we give you our blessing.
The Eastern tradition that views the donkey as an animal of peace as opposed to the horse, which is the animal of war, may be referenced in the symbolism of the donkey. A king would have mounted a horse when he was determined to wage war and a donkey when he wanted to usher in peace. Hence, Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem would have represented his entry as the Prince of Peace rather than as a ruler who waged war. As a result, there have been two distinct meanings (or higher levels of biblical hermeneutics): a historical significance that occurred as reported in the Gospels and a secondary meaning found in the symbols.
One of the Twelve Major Feasts of the Liturgical Year is Palm Sunday, also known as the Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem in Orthodox Churches. Christians frequently arrange palm fronds by knotting them into crosses on Lazarus Saturday, the day before Palm Sunday, in preparation for the procession on Sunday. The church’s hangings and vestments are changed to a festive hue, most frequently green.
The practice of using pussy willow and other twigs, such as box trees, instead of palm fronds developed among the Russian Orthodox Church, Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Ukrainian Catholic Church, Polish, Bavarian, and Austrian Roman Catholics, as well as various other Eastern European peoples. This is because the latter is not easily accessible that far north. Some Orthodox believers choose to utilize olive branches because there is no canonical restriction on the type of branches that must be used.
Regardless of the type, these branches are blessed and distributed with candles either on the Eve of the Feast (Saturday night) during the All-Night Vigil or on Sunday morning before the Divine Liturgy.