It’s the Sunday before Easter, Palm Sunday. The churches in my neighborhood are packed today because at the end of mass they are giving out palm leaves that have been blessed and sprinkled with holy water. A&P Catholics, those who attend church on Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday only, are probably the cause for the overcrowding. They need to get their hands on the free palm leaves being distributed today.
Traditionally, this day celebrates the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem and is described in all four Gospels of the New Testament. The palm branch represents triumph and victory in the Jewish tradition and as such was waved by the people welcoming Jesus, as well as, laid in his path. This is how the significance of the palm leaves originated. Left over palm leaves are saved and burned the following year to make the ashes used on Ash Wednesday.
If you visit Catholic cemeteries before or after Palm Sunday, you will see many displays of crosses made of palms placed at grave sites. My father was an A&P Catholic. He made sure he went to church on Palm Sundays every year to collect more than his fair share of palm leaves. He spent the rest of the morning making small crosses out of two palm leaves woven together. It was a skill I also learned from watching him. He would make them for us and all my relatives and we would place them in the crucifixes over our beds. They would remain there the entire year and only removed when replaced with a fresh cross the following year.
I am thankful for the memories and I really miss those days. Whenever I think of Palm Sunday I automatically think of my father, sitting at the kitchen table, making a dozen crosses out of his palm leaf booty with a huge smile on his face. I hope they have palm leaves in heaven Dad.