What kind of holiday is this?
At the end of the sixth week of the Easter fast, Christian believers celebrate one of the most significant events – the Lord’s Entry into Jerusalem. Willow twigs have become a traditional symbol of this holiday, that’s why the people are used to calling it Palm Sunday.
The holiday marks the beginning of the Passion Week, so it is both happy and sad at the same time – the joy of Christ’s triumphal entry into the eternal city is intertwined with the awareness of what lies ahead – the last week of his earthly life and death on the cross. Palm Sunday does not have a fixed date, because it depends on the date of Easter. In 2021, this holiday will be celebrated on April 25.
How did the idea of celebrating Palm Sunday come about?
In understanding the events of the Lord’s Entry into Jerusalem, the events of the day that preceded it, that is, the Sabbath, which is called Lazarus, are important. A few weeks before this Sabbath, Christ, together with his disciples, left Jerusalem, fleeing from the Jewish high priests who wanted to kill him, and stopped in the city of Gilead. At that time, in the town of Bethany near Jerusalem, Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, fell seriously ill. Treatment did not help, and for Lazarus’ sisters Martha and Mary, Christ’s ability to heal the sick became the last hope to save their brother.
The messenger of the sisters crossed the Jordan, reached the settlement where Jesus lived, and gave him the sad news and a plea for help. However, Christ did not immediately rush to save his friend, but only spoke words that were incomprehensible to those around him – they said that the disease was sent to Lazarus not so that he would die, but in order to glorify the Son of God. Christ’s disciples were surprised, but did not ask him about anything.
Only two days later, Christ gathered his disciples and announced that he was going to Bethany. They tried to dissuade him from the dangerous journey, expressing the hope that Lazar might have already recovered. But Jesus said that in fact he had known about the death of Lazarus for a long time – immediately after the messenger left the city, the sick man died. The confused disciples did not understand anything, but they decided to go with Jesus, and if it was so, to die with him.
Christ came to Bethany on Saturday, and in the house of Lazarus he found Jews who had gathered to pay their respects to the deceased and support his sisters. Lazarus was buried four days ago, and Martha and Mary no longer believed in any miracles. The Jews, feeling dislike for Christ, did not immediately attack him, because they wanted to see how everything would end. Jesus led everyone to the cave where his friend was buried, ordered to remove the stone at the entrance and called: “Lazarus, come out!”. When Lazar came out of the cave a few moments later, everyone present was immediately seized with horror and delight. Even the Jews believed that Jesus is actually the Son of God, because no one before him could create such a miracle – resurrecting a person who was buried a few years ago.
The next day in Jerusalem they began to celebrate Pesach, a holiday in honor of the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt. Due to the multitude of pilgrims, the population of the city increased several times, it was like a beehive. At that time, Jerusalem was under the rule of the Romans, and people were waiting for the appearance of a messiah who would lead them and free them from foreign rule.
After hearing the news about the resurrection of Lazarus, many people decided that their savior had finally appeared. Jesus was joined on the way to Jerusalem by a crowd amazed by his miraculous abilities, and at the entrance to the city the Son of God was met by thousands of people who lined his path with palm branches and loudly praised him as their new king. Christ had always avoided excessive manifestations of human admiration before, but this time he did not try to prevent them. But among the general merriment, he alone remained sad, because the joyful crowd did not understand his real goal – he was not supposed to become a king on earth, but was supposed to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to people. Besides, Jesus knew what fate awaited him soon.
Entering the Jerusalem temple, Jesus expelled the merchants from there, and also healed the sick pilgrims who prayed for their recovery. Observing these events and popular reverence, the Jewish priests gathered for a common council and decided to kill Christ, and with him Lazarus, as a living proof of the divine origin of the Savior. After three days, Jesus will be arrested, and on Friday the same people who welcomed him so gladly will demand his execution.
Christians began to celebrate the Lord’s Entry into Jerusalem in the 3rd century, at least the first mentions of the holiday in the writings of St. Methodius, the bishop of the Lycian city of Patara, date back to this time. Documentary evidence from the 4th century describes the event as a solemn procession of believers carrying palm branches. Therefore, in countries with a warm climate where palm trees grow, the holiday is still called Palm Sunday.
In Ukraine, palm trees do not grow, but at this time, buds were blooming on the willow tree, which is the first to come to life after winter. Willow twigs became an analogue of palm branches, and among the people they were called a holiday Palm Sunday.
Frequent Questions and answers about Palm Sunday
Yes, in Palm Sunday there is also pre-Christian history. For our pagan ancestors, the willow was a mystical tree, on the branches of which the souls of the dead find refuge, and all the energy of nature accumulates. Therefore, in the spring, when buds appeared on the willow, a holiday called Verbitsa was celebrated. From there, the tradition of symbolically hitting each other with a twig to give strength and health from the willow came.
Lazarus managed to avoid death at the hands of the Jewish priests and after his resurrection he lived another thirty years. Lazar became the first Christian bishop on the island of Cyprus.
These twigs should not be thrown away under any circumstances. A dried twig will act as a talisman in the home until next year, and planted near any reservoir or well will help keep the water clean. Also, sometimes a decoction is made from consecrated willow twigs, which is considered healing in case of human or animal illness.
This is a major church holiday, so on this day you can’t do physical work, clean, sew, embroider or weave. Still in Palm Sunday you can’t shout, slander and fight, have loud fun with alcoholic drinks.
People have long noticed that sunny and warm festive weather promises a good harvest of cereals and fruits. Also, on this day, a houseplant was planted in a pot, and if it grew quickly, it foretold life in abundance, and if it withered, it meant that financial difficulties were ahead.
How to celebrate Palm Sunday?
In every country where Christianity is practiced, there are traditions of celebration Palm Sunday have their own characteristics. For example, in Italy this Sunday is called Palm Sunday or Olive Day – all streets and houses are decorated with palm and olive tree branches, they are also carried to church, and after the service they are given to loved ones.
In Germany, it is customary to consecrate sprigs of juniper or beech, in France – rosemary, laurel and boxwood. Austrian and Belgian farmers have a tradition of fencing their plots of land with consecrated twigs to protect the future harvest from any troubles. In the Vatican, people gather in the central square, waiting for the appearance of the Pope, who comes out with a palm branch in his hands and blesses everyone present.
In Ukraine, as in many other countries, the holiday begins the day before – from the evening of Lazarus Saturday, night services are held in churches, during which many branches of willow are consecrated, because every Christian has this obligatory symbol of the holiday with him. Also, believers usually go to confession in the evening in order to receive communion in the morning. Those who cannot be present at the all-night service come to the church in the morning, because the consecration of the willow continues at the morning service.
After visiting the church, people return home with willow twigs and “hit” their loved ones with them, always saying the words: “I’m not hitting – the willow is hitting, Easter is in a week. Don’t die, wait for the red egg!”. Such a ritual is considered especially useful for children and people who are sick.
In general Palm Sunday should pass quietly and calmly, in the family circle, without guests and fun entertainment. Since fasting lasts until Easter, the food on the table must be vegetable, but on this day it is allowed to eat fish, seafood and season dishes with oil.
Why is this event important?
This holiday means at the same time a bright and tragic time in the life of Christ, because after the honors he experienced betrayal, torture and martyrdom on the cross. But Palm Sunday actually has a much deeper meaning than just a description of biblical events.
The Savior did not come to Jerusalem to gain power and glory, and not to enter into confrontation with the Roman emperor. With all his life and actions, Jesus demonstrated to people the true purpose of his existence, but they did not want or could not accept it. Therefore, it no longer made sense to continue preaching or performing miracles, because this only strengthened the desire of the crowd to put Christ on the throne. It was necessary to sacrifice oneself so that people would finally understand the truth. This clearly shows what a gap sometimes lies between people’s expectations and the truth and how often we tend to take what is desired for real, without burdening ourselves with reflection or analysis.
Also an important lesson of this day is human fickleness and tendency to betrayal. Those who a few days ago honored Jesus as their king, changed their opinion to the opposite and not only did not prevent, but even contributed to the crucifixion of Christ, giving the right to life to the robber Barabbas.
One of the main messages Palm Sunday it is a fact that it is impossible to attain true faith by being completely absorbed in one’s own material interests. This is evidenced by Christ’s actions in the Jerusalem temple, which was more like a place for business profit than for sincere prayer. Unfortunately, observing some modern church ministers, even of high rank, we see that even now this tendency has not disappeared anywhere.
Spring day Palm Sunday reminds us of the sinless life of the Savior, of his sacrificial death, glorious resurrection and ascension, and candle lights and willow branches symbolize the eternal triumph of life, good and faith over evil and death.
Postcards on Palm Sunday
👉 Section Postcards and greetings ➕ Postcards in Viber ➕ Postcards in Telegram
When will we celebrate? Palm Sunday?