What is Palm Sunday? And how is it celebrated worldwide?

This year, Palm Sunday falls on March 24. Also known as Passion Sunday, it marks the beginning of Holy Week.

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Palm Sunday commemorates the Christian belief in Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when he was greeted by crowds waving palm branches that they placed on the ground along his path, according to the Bible.

This year, Palm Sunday falls on March 24. Also known as Passion Sunday, it marks the beginning of Holy Week. The holiest week of the Christian year includes the Good Friday re-enactment of the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and death, and his belief in his resurrection at Easter.

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Here’s a quick look at the meaning of Palm Sunday.

IS THERE A DONKEY IN THIS STORY?

Yeah.

Jesus’ procession to Jerusalem is described by the four evangelists of the Bible.

The gospels differ, but according to one expert they agree on this: Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey, or on a colt. Then what is?

Foal is defined as “a young male horse that is not normally gelded.” But in the Bible, the word meaning “foal” is used almost exclusively for young donkeys, not horses, writes Joanne M. Pierce, professor emeritus of religious studies at the College of the Holy Cross.

Pierce writes that this reminds me of a reference from the Book of Zechariah in the Jewish scriptures, where the prophet describes a victorious king entering Jerusalem riding on a donkey.

In Judaism, he says, the Zechariah passage refers to the Messiah, a spiritual king who would peacefully redeem Israel, and the donkey is interpreted as a sign of humility.

“In Christianity, this animal becomes almost a symbol of Christ himself, given the way it patiently suffers and bears the burdens of others,” Pierce writes in an article published in The Conversation. “Horses, on the other hand, tend to be associated with royalty, power and war.”

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AND THE PALMS?

In the biblical story of Palm Sunday, a cheering crowd greeted Jesus along the road. Some spread their clothes on the ground; Others threw leafy branches they had cut from the fields. In the Gospel of John they are branches of palm trees, a tree that symbolizes victory and triumph.

In the Gospel of Matthew, the people began to shout: “Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in heaven! The word “Hosanna” was a plea for salvation and an exclamation of worship.

After the procession, the Bible says that Jesus entered Jerusalem and entered the temple.

HOW IS PALM SUNDAY CELEBRATED?

The ritual or liturgy usually begins with the blessing of the palms by the clergy. This is followed by a reading of the Passion of Christ, that is, an account of the final events of Jesus’ life.

Some ceremonies in German-speaking countries used to include a figure of Jesus riding a donkey, says the Encyclopedia Britannica. The figure is called “Palmesel,” which in German means “palm donkey,” according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which on its site recounts how worshipers placed palms on the ground before the Palmesel during lively processions.

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Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land celebrate Palm Sunday by holding masses and processions that remember the triumphal entry of Jesus. Worshipers carry palm leaves and olive branches and march from the top of the neighboring Mount of Olives to Jerusalem’s historic Old City, home to the holy sites of all three Abrahamic monotheistic religions.

In churches around the world, parishioners often take palms home and some become ashes.

HOW DO PALMS TURN INTO ASHES?

You can buy ashes, but some churches make them by burning palms from previous years.

They are used to make the ashes of Ash Wednesday, the solemn day of fasting and reflection that marks the beginning of Christianity’s most penitent season.

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