Palm Sunday begins Holy Week, taking place on the Sunday before Easter. It commemorates the Christian belief of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem and the last days of his life. According to the Bible, Jesus rode into Jerusalem during the Jewish Passover; he received a big welcome and palm branches were spread in the street before him. There are records of celebrations of the day going back to the fourth and eighth centuries.
The day is observed by many Christian churches in the United States with plays, pageants, and programs of music. Palms leaves, which symbolize joy and victory for Christians, are often distributed to congregants during services on the day. In some places, palm leaves are not readily available, so they are substituted by silk plant leaves, or olive, spruce, and box elder branches. Afterward, blessed palm leaves are often made into the shape of the cross, and put behind religious statues or images in homes, stores, and restaurants. They also may be buried to help crops grow, be used to decorate graves, or be burned so that the ashes can be saved for the following years' Ash Wednesday. Plays, pageants, and programs of music may also take place in communities, outside of churches, and may continue throughout Holy Week.
The day is also celebrated throughout the rest of the world. In Spain, processions depict the Passion of Christ—the time of Jesus' suffering and final days. The most prominent procession takes place in Seville. In Italy, a procession is often made to Rome, recreating Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. In Greece, the day is often observed in a solemn manner.
How to Observe
Celebrate the day by attending a church service or a passion play in your community, or by reading a Biblical account of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. Acquire palm leaves and use them to decorate. If you are up for traveling, there are a few places you could visit. The Messiah Festival of the Arts is a Holy Week festival in Kansas that has existed for more than a century. Each year, boats are blessed at the Blessing of the Fleet in St. Augustine. Semana Santa in Seville, Spain, is a celebration filled with processions during Holy Week.