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10 ways people celebrate Palm Sunday around the world

 

Photo by Les Chatfield licensed CC BY 2.0

Palm Sunday is a Christian holiday. As you might have guessed from the name, it’s on a Sunday — always the Sunday before Easter. That’s because it’s meant to commemorate Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, also a week before Easter Sunday.

Palm leaves (also know as palm fronds) are important on this day. It is said people lined the streets with the leaves to welcome Jesus.

Those are the basics of the holiday, but people around the world have very different ways of celebrating it.

Celebrations are different now because of the pandemic, but let's see how Palm Sunday has usually been celebrated in the past.


Poland

Young boy holds colourful flower-covered artificial palm leaf in Poland for Palm Sunday.
Young boy holds colourful decorations for Palm Sunday in Lyse, Poland. (Photo by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland licensed CC BY-ND 2.0)

Palm trees don’t grow in Poland so people make artificial palm leaves, decorating them with tissue paper flowers and ribbons. Some of these fake palms can be higher than 30 metres and need multiple people to carry them! There are competitions for the best ones.


Philippines

People hold palaspas, which are woven palm fronds.
Devotees hold their palm fronds (that's another word for leaf of a palm tree or fern plant) during Palm Sunday mass in Manila, Philippines. (Noel Celis/Getty Images)

People in the Philippines will decorate and weave palm fronds into complicated shapes, called palaspas (say 'pal-a-spawce'). They’re blessed at a church and brought home for luck.


Norway

A ski lodge in Norway.
A ski lodge in the mountains of Norway. (Photo by Øyvind Nondal licensed CC BY-NC 2.0)

People in Norway decorate their homes with birch twigs and painted eggs for Palm Sunday. Lots of places have the week before Easter off and people will travel to cottages for skiing, reading and family time.


Read all about Lent — the 40 days before Easter


The Netherlands

Rooster bread made in the Netherlands for Palm Sunday.
Bread made in the shape of a rooster for Palm Sunday. (Photo by Hans Splinter licensed CC BY-ND 2.0) 

Chicks and eggs are common symbols of Easter, but in the Netherlands, it’s all about the rooster. In some towns, kids have a procession where they carry crosses decorated with ribbons and, on top, a rooster made out of bread.


Latvia

Pussy willow branches against blue skies.
The catkins, the furry part of the pussy willow, appear in eary spring. (Photo courtesy of pasja1000 by Pixabay)

Pussy willows are a lot easier to find in Latvia than palms, so the day is known as Pussy Willow Sunday. Parents even wake kids up on the Sunday with pretend swats from the willow branches!


Haiti

A young Haitian girl looks up at the camera.
A little girl stands beside decorative palm fronds during Palm Sunday. (Hector Retamal/Getty Images)

Many celebrations on the island of Haiti are a mixture of Catholic and local Voodoo traditions, involving processions and travelling bands playing drums, maracas and trumpets.


Check out Purim: carnival, costumes and cookies!


Finland

Kids dress up to go door-to-door to give out pussy willows in exchange for candy.
Children of Finland dress up as witches and go door-to-door. (Heikki Saukkomaa/Lehtikuva via AP)

Trick-or-treating isn’t just for Halloween! In Finland, kids dress up as Easter witches and go round to houses offering willow branches in exchange for candy.


Ethiopia

Ethiopian women dressed in white hold palm fronds outside a church.
Ethiopian women hold palm leaves congregate outside of church on Palm Sunday. (Rula Halawani/Getty Images)

Christians in Ethiopia call Palm Sunday Hosanna (say 'ho-san-nah'), after the cheer people were said to have greeted Jesus with when he arrived. People weave palm fronds into elaborate rings to wear on the day.


Bulgaria

Bulgarian women are dressed up in traditional clothing to celebrate Palm Sunday.
In Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, young women dance during Palm Sunday. (Petar Petrov/AP Photo)

Willow branches are a big part of the celebration in Bulgaria along with flowers. Palm Sunday is more often called Flower Day because of all the springtime blooms. People will make wreaths of pussy willows and flowers and decorate their homes, often having big family dinners on the day.


Belgium

Palm fronds.
(Photo by Les Chatfield licensed CC BY 2.0)

In some towns, there are Palm Sunday processions and kids go door-to-door offering palm leaves in exchange for coins.