EASTER is fast approaching but before its arrival comes Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday. But when is Palm Sunday? Why is it important to Christians? The Easter weekend marks the next bank holiday in 2018 and this year takes place from Good Friday on March 30 until Easter Sunday on April 1.
The holy holiday is a Christian festival, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead following his crucifixion by the Romans. It is preceded by Holy Week when a number of key dates and church services are observed by worshippers, beginning with Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is a moveable Christian feast that falls on the Sunday before Easter.
This year, Palm Sunday falls on Sunday, March 25, exactly one week before Easter Sunday, which in 2018 is on Sunday, April 1 (also April Fools’ Day). The religious feast day commemorates the triumphant arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem after he raised Lazarus from the dead. Christ was cheered on by jubilant crowds who waved large palm branches and placed them in his path.
In the Bible, it is written: “The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’
‘Blessed is the King of Israel!’”
Just a few days later, many of those same people would be the same ones mocking Jesus as he was executed on a cross on Good Friday.
Palm Sunday stars off Holy Week – the last week of Lent – and is a time of reflection for Christians who use it to remember Jesus’s suffering before his death and resurrection. It is traditional for churches to hold services and bless palm leaves, which are then burnt to make ashes for Ash Wednesday services for the next year. While specific celebrations vary depending on the branch of Christianity observed, many churches will have a procession involving palm leaves.
In England, Palm Sunday used to be marked by the burning of Jack’o’Lent figures between the 15th and 17th centuries. The straw effigy would be stone and abused on Ash Wednesday, and kept in the parish for burning on Palm Sunday. It was largely seen as a metaphorical revenge for Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus.