The start of the Holy Week is represented by Palm Sunday, the day where Catholics go to Church to have their palm branches blessed. It is the Sunday before Easter. The biblical event speaks of the triumphant entry of Jesus to Jerusalem which is interpreted as Christ’s establishment of kingship over Israel. Contrary to a political leader which was what was expected by the people, Jesus came in humility riding a donkey as opposed to horses commonly used by warriors.
The choice in the animal ridden is considered very significant as a donkey represented peace while a horse is often associated with war. Jesus intended to be seen as a Prince of Peace rather than a king about to wage war against anyone. This particular event is commemorated every year but its date is movable depending on the current liturgical calendar.
In today’s time, the raising of palm branches is done in honor of Jesus. In a church ceremony where the people read the Passion of Christ while holding on to their palm branches, we are reminded that most people who waved their branches to welcome Jesus were the very same ones who joined the call for His crucifixion. This pertains to the natural weakness of man. Palm Sunday signals the beginning of Christ’s journey to the Cross.
Blessed palms or olive branches are placed in homes as part of witnessing for Christ. They are considered sacramentals or sacred signs instituted by the Church. They are not to be treated as amulets or magical weapons against evil spirits or catastrophe to prevent any superstitious belief from deviating from its real meaning.
They are disposed either through burying or burning. The Church usually requests the faithful to give their old previously blessed palm branches to be burned and used as ash for Ash Wednesday. Palm weaving is a popular tradition in many countries including the Philippines, Italy, and Poland.