Palm Sunday is the beginning of the Holy Week for Christians around the world. Holy Week encompasses the 7 days prior to Easter. It begins on Palm Sunday and includes Holy Thursday (also known as Maundy Thursday), Good Friday and ends at midnight on Holy Saturday. At the end of Holy Week is Easter Sunday with the celebration of Jesus rising from the tomb.
Palm Sunday is the day in which Jesus enters Jerusalem; His last journey into the city before His death. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. This choice of travel is very symbolic as Jesus wanted to show all the people that He came in peace. History shows that when a king rode into a city on a horse, he was entering for war. If a king came into a city on a donkey, he was coming in peace.
Many people who heard Jesus was arriving in Jerusalem came forward to greet Him. In the Gospel of St. John 12:13, it is written that a great multitude “Took branches of palm trees and went forth to meet Him and cried Hosanna. Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel.” Within some religions, it is stated that the palm leaves and robes were placed on the ground in front of Jesus as He entered Jerusalem similar to a “red carpet” greeting.
History of Palm Sunday
The history of Palm Sunday appears early in the eighth century. “This Palm Sunday procession, and the blessing of palms, seems to have originated in the Frankish Kingdom. The earliest mention of these ceremonies is found in the Sacramentary of the Abbey of Bobbio in northern Italy.” After a few years, the celebration of this procession discontinued. What remains today is the blessing of the palms, a procession to the church and the celebration of mass.
In countries where palm branches are unavailable, other types of plants are used. In Italy, olive branches are used which are symbolic for peace. Ireland has, in the past, used yew branches and Palm Sunday was known as Domhnach an Iúir or Yew Sunday. Other European countries may use willows or pussy willows. Years ago, in many older European countries, flowers or flower petals were also used on Palm Sunday.
Palm Sunday marks the first day of Holy Week because it is a commemoration of the beginning of Jesus’ final walk towards His death and His resurrection. Many people around the world observe Holy week as a time for somber reflection of the impacts of His absolute, personal sacrifice for us. As a Christian, this is a time for fasting and praying for enlightenment on how we can follow in His footsteps. Consider carefully, how one man has continued to change the lives of all, from a short 33 years of life on this Earth.