Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Palm Sunday is a moveable feast in the church calendar observed by Catholic, Orthodox, and some Protestant Christians. It is the Sunday before Easter, and a celebration of the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem in the days before his execution. In the Western church it must always fall on one of the 35 dates between March 15 and April 18.
In ancient times, the palm branch was a symbol of triumph and victory. (Leviticus 23:40 - Feast of Tabernacles, and Revelation 7:9) It was also a custom in all lands to cover, in some way, the path of someone thought worthy of the highest honour. Consequently, when Jesus entered Jerusalem, the crowd greeted him by waving palm fronds, and carpeting his path with them, thereby giving the day its name.
Originally the Roman Catholic Church officially called this Sunday the Second Sunday of the Passion; in 1970 the formal designation was changed to Passion Sunday, a change that has caused considerable confusion because the latter term had heretofore been affixed to the previous Sunday, or the fifth within Lent. Concomitant with this revision, the entire week before Easter was redesignated Passion Week (formerly called "Holy Week" officially, and still usually referred to as such by the general public). In the Passion Week liturgy, on Palm Sunday palm fronds are blessed outside the church building and a procession enters, singing, re-enacting the entry into Jerusalem. These palms are saved in many churches to be burned later as the source of ashes used in Ash Wednesday services. The Roman Catholic Church considers the palms to be sacramentals.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Palm Sunday is often called the Entry into Jerusalem, and is the beginning of Holy Week. The day before it is Lazarus Saturday, remembering the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead. On Lazarus Saturday believers often prepare palm fronds by knotting them into crosses in preparation for the procession on Sunday. In the Russian Orthodox Church, the custom developed of using pussy willows instead of palm fronds because palm fronds were not readily available.
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