We all know what Easter Sunday is, but what about Palm Sunday?
Before the rejoicing, Christians remember the fact that Jesus was crucified, died and was buried.
Palm Sunday marks the moment when the Son of God entered Jerusalem in triumph riding on the back of a donkey while crowds, who would later call for him to be killed, paid homage to him.
Christians believe it was a week before his death and resurrection, and the events of that day are recalled in special Palm Sunday services each year.
When is Palm Sunday 2018?
Palm Sunday, which falls on March 25 this year, is the first day of Holy Week and the most solemn time in the Christian calendar.
So how does Palm Sunday get its name?
The name Palm Sunday comes from the palm branches that people laid down in Jesus’ path as he rode into Jerusalem on the donkey.
Palm branches are a widely recognised symbol of peace and victory, and in Biblical times were often thrown before the feet of a conquering hero in homage. When Jesus arrived in the Holy City, the Gospel writers said the crowds lay palm branches and clothes at his feet to honour him.
It had been predicted in the Old Testament that people would recognise the Messiah when he rode into the city, and they would then lay palms at his feet.
Now during Palm Sunday Mass, palms are distributed to parishioners who carry them in a ritual procession into church. The palms are blessed with holy water.
People are now given small crosses, made of palms, to take home with them.
Later these are burnt to create the ashes that are put on people’s heads on Ash Wednesday (just before Lent starts) the following year. In parts of the world where palm trees don’t grow, flowers or olive branches are used instead.
What about the donkey?
All the Gospels describe Jesus riding into the Holy City on the back of a donkey that had never been ridden before, to show he came in peace not to wage war.
Before he entered the city, he sent two disciples ahead to the village of Bethphage to look for an unbroken colt.
They then brought it to Jesus, lay their cloaks on its back so Jesus could ride it into Jerusalem.
In some traditions, a donkey forms part of the Palm Sunday parade.
The crowds shouted Hosanna meaning ‘save now’ as they believed Jesus was going to save them.
What do you eat on Palm Sunday?
Pax cakes, which are believed to have originated in Herefordshire, were once handed out by churches after the service on Palm Sunday.
More like biscuits than cakes, they were generally stamped with the image of a lamb and a flag – the symbol of Jesus, the “Lamb of God – and were meant to symbolise peace and goodwill. (The word “pax”, in Latin, means peace).
Pax cakes are more like biscuits than cakes and the practice is believed to date back to the Middle Ages, when the little biscuits were handed out with a glass of beer.
Peas or carlings were traditionally consumed on Palm Sunday particularly in northern England and Scotland, so it became known as Carling Sunday (or Car-Sunday in Scotland). Recipes varied according to region, including Pease Porridge, or split pea soup.
Palm Sunday is also known as Fig Sunday because tradition maintains that Jesus cursed a fig tree that would not bear fruit, and ate figs after his entry into Jerusalem. Dried figs are often eaten on the day.
What are the key dates for Easter?
This year Palm Sunday is on March 25. It marks the start of Holy Week.
Palm Sunday is followed by Maundy Thursday on March 29, Good Friday on March 30, Easter Sunday on April 1 and Easter Monday on April 2.
The date of Easter changes each year because it is based on the Lunar calendar.