When I was a kid Palm Sunday was that day in church that those big leafy fauna things were handed out and I always got taken away from me for whacking my brother in the back of the head with them during Mass. I suppose it was a lack of communication on my part for never expressing my confusion as to why we were doing what we were doing, I just figured someday someone would clue me in the way they did about Communion.
No one ever really did and eventually I stopped being so curious about it anyway. Perhaps it sounds a bit dysfunctional to you, but it was just one of those things that just was. Time went on and eventually my curiosity piqued again, and so I did a little digging now that I was a little older.
As it turns out I was a little embarrassed to find out that the palms we were given were a symbol of many important things and all I could see in it was a new weapon in the perpetual whacking tournament I had going on with my beloved sibling. Palm leaves and Palm trees are really quite important in both Jewish and Christian traditions. Depending on exact denomination, Palm leaves can mean good fortune, health, wealth, intelligence. Blessing, and in some cases even represent Jesus himself.
In Christianity, Palm Sunday is always held the Sunday before Easter. The Christian calendar allows for Easter Sunday to fall on any given Sunday between March 15th and April 18th. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the 2007 date of April 1st. Either way, Palm Sunday is the week before that and some denominations choose to hold a feast that day, a celebration to commemorate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. As he made his entrance, some stories relate that the people of Jerusalem welcomed and heralded him by throwing clothing, food, and Palm leaves at his feet. He was, of course, crucified a week later.
The Sunday prior to Easter is earmarked as “Passion Sunday,” although most refer to it as Palm Sunday as it was referenced by the Roman Catholic Church. Passion Sunday is meant to represent the beginning of a very holy week, one that was led by Jesus and one that culminated with his death and resurrection. His time in Jerusalem as well spent, for no matter where he was or what scrutiny he was under, Jesus was always at peace with the heart and determined to touch the lives of those around him.
We can not explore the meaning of Palm Sunday without digressing to the misinterpreted meaning of Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is not historically the beginning of Christianity. Christianity did become an actual denomination until several hundred years later. Jesus was in fact, a Jew and his followers were in fact, Jewish. For several hundred years after the death of Christ, the original “Christians” were an offset denomination of Judaism. Unfortunately, despite historical facts several hundred years after his death, Palm Sunday marked the beginning of anti-Semitism. The anti-Semites of the past as well as the anti- Semites of the present neglect to realize, understand, or give credence the fact that it was the Roman authorities were gave the order and carried out the execution.
Palm Sunday is naturally celebrated differently by each denomination, but the basic meaning is universal. In reverence to Jesus’ teachings and in honorarium of his incredible life here on Earth, we gather with Palm fronds, Olive branches, Fig branches, or whatever basic fauna we agree upon and celebrate the life that was lived just prior to the death.
On behalf of the small children out there who will receive their token symbol of Jesus’ entry into the Holy City, thorough explanations about the meaning of what goes on in church can go a long way toward helping a child grow spiritually. It can be easy to assume that they are hearing the dynamics laid out for them in church, but often the speech used in religious ceremonies are too taxing for a child to listen to intently enough to understand. So when Junior starts whacking someone on the head with his holy symbol, educating him will go a lot farther than taking it away.