Many of today’s ceremonial traditions that celebrate and honor Palm Sunday (also referred to as Passion Sunday) date back to the tenth century. Traditionally the palms used in the Palm Sunday service will be blessed. In regions where palm trees are not readily available, there are several other suitable options such as yew, willow, sallow, etc. After the service, many revered churchgoers will take the palms home and place them all around their houses, or even in their fields and in their barns, to add blessings to their homes and all who enter.
Children play a crucial role in any Palm Sunday service, and as such many children will participate first by making crosses from the palm leaves. Then children are a part of the processional to and from the altar – celebrating the day that Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem. After the procession, Mass is celebrated with reverence and singing of the Passion and the Benediction. The Passion is included to serve as a reminder and a memorial of the sufferings of Christ.
As a final tradition, the palm leaves are ceremoniously burned and are actually used for the ashes at Ash Wednesday services.
There are many traditional foods that are recognized to commiserate a Palm Sunday ceremony. For example, fig pudding is sometimes enjoyed because it is believed that Jesus ate figs during his donkey ride into Jerusalem. Another traditional offering is split pea soup, which is traditionally served in Scotland or Northern England. Peas were sometimes placed in the shoe as penance during Lent, therefore eating split pea soup in remembrance of penance is sometimes observed.
One little-known piece of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem and the usage of Palm leaves by the people to wave in glory and joyous song is that in that time the Palm was perceived as a sign of Israel and thus like a Jewish national flag. The Romans had seized control of Jerusalem and this impromptu gathering and subsequent procession throughout the city was displeasing to them. They asked Jesus to tell the people to cease rejoicing, but his reply further angered them. He was known to have said that if they stopped rejoicing and singing, the stones of the road would start singing in their place. This is an Old Testament prophecy whereby Jerusalem would know when the Messiah was coming to save its people.
Rejoicing in remembrance of this event is a blessed day in the Christian religion and is, as such, celebrated with song, blessings, and joyous reverence.