Palm-Weaving

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, the day commemorating Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem. The people welcomed Him by laying palm branches (a symbol of victory) along the street and singing songs of joy.

Less than a week later, He would be crucified.

Christians the world over continue to celebrate Palm Sunday, with church-goers receiving blessed palms.

But what can you do with a palm leaf once Palm Sunday is over? I mean, you can’t just throw it away because it’s a “sacramental” and reminds us of Christ’s resurrection. It also points to the multitude of saints in Heaven “wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.” (Rev. 7:9)

Traditionally, some people return home with their palms and place them behind a crucifix or a religious picture. I’m told that farmers often bury them in the corners of their fields. Many parishes re-collect the dried palms before Ash Wednesday and burn them, using the ashes for that liturgy.

Another custom, particularly among Italian and Polish peoples, involves palm-weaving.

To weave palms, you take the frond (leaf) and transform it into a new shape by bending, cutting, and folding. Some of the more popular shapes include crosses, crowns of thorns, roses, and various animals, including fish.

Perhaps because the Palm Sunday readings are longer than those on other Sundays, I usually find myself weaving a cross out of my palm. I assumed some of my Italian forebears did likewise, but when I asked Mom which of her relatives passed this custom down, she didn’t remember any of them doing that.

As I thought about it longer, I realized the first time I made a palm cross was when Domer was little. An older woman sitting nearby was calmly folding and bending her palm frond into a beautiful shape, and Domer was fascinated.

Quiet, too, which is saying something for a small child in a long church service!

Anyway, Domer watched this weaving and promptly mimicked it with his own palm leaf. He silently walked me through the process, which, by the way, is easier than it looks online.

We still weave our palm fronds into crosses, but some of those other patterns look interesting. Do you weave palms, too?

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12 thoughts on “Palm-Weaving

  1. Dear Debbie,

    This post really resonates with me. After Palm Sunday Mass yesterday, My Mom and I went to visit my dear Aunt Rose who is terminally-ill in a Nursing Home on Hospice care. it is just a matter of time and when we walk into her room, we never know what we will find. Most of the time she sleeps but when she awakens (which is only for 30-45 minutes for the entire day) she is alert and talkative. We were pleasantly surprised to see her sitting up in bed talking with her children. I was able to give her Communion and the palms. I wanted to make a palm-cross but had no idea how to go about it. Eventually after about 30 minutes, I managed to weave a cross together and taped it to the wall facing her bed so every time she opens her eyes ,she see will it and remembers how much she is loved by Jesus and all of us. Sure wish I had this post yesterday but it all worked out :-) She smiled and nodded when I finished taping it to the wall then drifted off for the rest of the time we were there. These precious moments are so sacred.

    • Blessings to you, Kathy, for doing what you can to care for your Aunt Rose! I’m sure you and your mother’s visit reminded her of how much she’s loved, and I love that you tried to make her a palm cross. It’s not terribly easy, but after doing a few, I’ve found that practice makes it easier. What a sweet story you’ve shared!

  2. Our pastor once told us the story of his first Ash Wednesday service (not sure if he was in training or not) how he didn’t have oil and used water with the palm ash and it caused an acidic reaction leaving a slight burning rash on some foreheads! He never made that mistake again!

    • Oh, dear, the poor man! Come to think of it, I’ve often felt a slight stinging after receiving ashes, but I always attributed it to heat, not acid. Glad he fixed that little error!

  3. While I haven’t woven anything out my palm fronds, I have a few of those crosses left over from various children’s services. It’s been a while since my kids actually went to a children’s service..I too just can’t discard them! Just another reminder of what Christ did for me…

    • Thanks, Debbie! I always tell myself I’m going to carry a bunch of the old, dried up ones back to church so they can burn them into ashes, but I keep forgetting. They’re going to be surprised when I finally remember!

    • Thanks for visiting and commenting! Yes, all that jubilation turned to sorrow, but three days later — what amazing triumph! If not for His sacrifice, we’d have no opportunity to share in eternal life with Him.

  4. I’ve never woven palm leaves. In fact, none of the churches I’ve attended have handed them out. It does sound like fun, though and it keeps your hands busy. I learned something new today…thanks!

    • Thanks for reading, Janna. Best of all, palm weaving keeps a young child occupied, and we all know how hard it is for them to sit still in church!

  5. Fascinating. Here in southern California we have lots of palm trees and, therefore, palm fronds that sometimes fall to the ground. I never thought of using them for anything, but weaving sounds like a great craft activity. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you for reading and commenting, Monica. You’re lucky to have lots of palm trees — I always enjoy seeing them when we trek to the Gulf Coast. Makes me feel like I’m in a tropical paradise!

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