No matter what faith you embrace, it is likely that the month of April includes a day that is of spiritual significance to you. This month, I’m going to talk about the different religious holidays that fall in April, and how and why they are celebrated.
Palm Sunday is one of the holiest days in Christianity, representing the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey at the beginning of Passover. The crowds laid down their cloths and palms to cover his path, while praising Jesus, saying … “Hosanna, Hosanna (meaning: save now, please save in Hebrew), Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David. Bless the King of Israel.”
This was said in front of the Jewish high priest and Romans, which, as you can imagine, ticked them off. It was blasphemous to the Jewish high priest and against the Roman law to say that someone was above Caesar. Additionally, the significance of Jesus riding a donkey and having his way paved with palm branches is a fulfillment of a prophecy spoken by the prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 9:9). In biblical times, the regional custom called for kings and nobles arriving in procession to ride on the back of donkeys. The donkey (or domesticated ass) was a symbol of peace; those who rode upon them proclaimed peaceful intentions. The laying of palm branches indicated that the king or dignitary was arriving in victory or triumph.
To say that next week for Jesus was very intense is an understatement. So what is the best way to acknowledge Palm Sunday? One way is by remembering Jesus’ teachings. Jesus taught on three levels: first was the social level, e.g., love one another or the Golden Rule; next would be the spiritual level, i.e., the kingdom of Heaven is within; and third He taught on the mystical level, i.e., “I (and all of us) are One with the Father.”
It’s really not difficult to incorporate these three concepts into our daily life, and I hope that most of us are already doing it.
On Palm Sunday, palms are used to decorate the altars of some Christian churches. Following the services, members of the congregation are often invited to take the palms home. Other churches save the palms used on Palm Sunday and burn them. The ashes are then used for Ash Wednesday of the following year.
In areas where palms are not readily available, and before modern transportation made them accessible, Palm Sunday is celebrated with different tree varieties, such as yew, willow and sallow trees.
In the coming weeks, I’ll talk about the significance of Good Friday, Easter and Passover. If you are looking for information on celebrations and rituals associated with Hindu, Jain and Muslim holidays, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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