To Filipinos, Palm Sunday is never complete without the palaspas, or braided and decorated palm fronds that the faithful wave in the air for the priest to bless during Mass then bring home to hang on their main door. When dried, these palms are collected by the church and burned, their ashes used in the following year for Ash Wednesday.
But have you ever wondered how the faithful from the rest of the world celebrate this special day that marks the start of Holy Week? My Pope Philippines takes you on a tour of seven countries as we look into their most unique Palm Sunday traditions! (Read: Five things to know about Palm Sunday)
Palm Sunday Traditions: Norway
In Norway, Palm Sunday or Palmesøndag finds the faithful substituting palm fronds with new birch twigs that they use to decorate their homes in anticipation of Easter Sunday. Homes are also adorned with signs of summer: curtains, candles, and flowers in the sunny color of yellow.
Palm Sunday Traditions: Latvia
Latvia calls Palm Sunday Pūpolsvēdiena—Pussy Willow Sunday to locals. A symbol of new life, pussy willows are distributed to the faithful and used to playfully swat children to wake up in the morning. Being swatted with pussy willow is believed to bring one good health. (Read: 5 Plants You Can Use as Palaspas on Palm Sunday)
Palm Sunday Traditions: Poland
In Poland, where palm trees do not grow, the faithful create their own version using ribbons and crepe paper formed into colorful flowers. They are then entered in an annual competition of who can make the tallest artificial palm. Some reach heights of nearly 100 feet! Apparently, locals associate an artificial palm’s height with the size and wealth of the maker’s estate.
Palm Sunday Traditions: Finland
Finland celebrates Palm Sunday with a bit of Halloween thrown in the mix. In Virvonta, children dress as Easter witches and go from house to house, offering pussy willow branches in exchange for coins and candy. (IN PHOTOS: The Most Adorable Costumes Made for Pets)
Palm Sunday Traditions: Ethiopia
Ethiopia calls Palm Sunday Hosanna—the greeting people chanted as Jesus made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Palm fronds aren’t the only common sight on this special occasion. Note the cube rings intricately woven out of palm and worn on the fingers of the faithful!
Palm Sunday Traditions: Spain
In Spain, palm fronds are sourced from the Palmeral de Elche, an ancient grove of date palms. The largest in all of Europe, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Palm fronds are covered to keep them from sunlight, thus giving them their distinctive white color. The fronds are then braided and woven into decorative pieces. (Read: Vatican Releases Guidelines for Holy Week 2021)
Palm Sunday Traditions: The Netherlands
The Netherlands celebrates Palmpasen not with palm fronds or pussy willow, but with bread in the shape of a rooster. The bread is impaled on the sharp tip of a wooden cross that is decorated with crepe paper and sweet treats.