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?

I Do…or Maybe I Don’t

It was announced on the news yesterday that Britain’s Prince William doesn’t plan on wearing a wedding ring after he and Kate Middleton tie the knot later this month.

Now, we in the States have always been terribly fascinated by anything “royal” — their style of dress, their manner of speech, their day-to-day lives. But aren’t there more critical things taking place around the world today than whether this handsome young man chooses to wear a ring after he’s wed?

Maybe not.

The custom of both bride and groom exchanging rings is a relatively new one, according to my online research. Prior to WWII, men traditionally didn’t wear wedding bands. Apparently, it was enough that the woman publicly proclaim she was “unavailable.”

But servicemen during the Great War wanted the world to know it when they were taken. Double-ring ceremonies, spurred by an aggressive marketing campaign from the American jewelry industry, climbed to 80% of all weddings by the late 1940s (compared to just 15% before the Depression).

For women, a wedding band is typically preceded by an engagement ring (generally a diamond). Most women admit to loving jewelry of any kind — from playing dress-up with their mother’s gems to browsing through jewelry stores or online for their own.

Men, on the other hand, seem averse to jewelry. Some equate it with femininity; others, having never worn jewelry, don’t see any reason to start just because of a marriage ceremony. Many men view a wedding band as a “noose.” And some are in jobs where jewelry is banned for safety reasons.

Still, today’s male has more reasons to be accepting of rings. There are class rings for high school and college men, fraternity rings, and even rings for members of organizations like the Masons.

And wedding rings don’t have to be the traditional plain gold or silver band. There are enough innovative styles and materials for even the choosiest of couples.

In the end, wearing a wedding band comes down to personal preference. Most women today seem to feel that, if they’re going to wear one, their husband should, too.

It’s plain that Miss Middleton doesn’t feel that way. She’s given her prince the go-ahead not to wear a wedding band.

I don’t think we have any business judging them. We can’t know what goes on between them, and it’s certainly within their right to make this choice.

Besides, who in the world won’t know they’re married once April 29 rolls around?

Laissez les bons temps rouler!!

It’s less than three weeks away now!

Of course, I’m referring to Mardi Gras (AKA Fat Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday).

Last year, I blogged about King Cakes, one of the many traditions surrounding this day of feasting and celebration before the somber 40-day period called Lent. Today, I’m going to talk about the colors of Mardi Gras.

Now you might consider it odd that a person living in Central Illinois, U.S.A., would be so enthralled with a season far removed by distance, but I lived many years along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where Mardi Gras is celebrated, Big Time!

Right after Jan. 6 (Feast of the Epiphany), Carnival Season gets underway. Kings, Queens, and Parade Marshals are announced, individual krewe themes are revealed, and the partying begins.

There are parades featuring decorated floats, live bands, and plenty of beads and doubloons for everybody; there are formal balls (I’m talking tux and ball gown formal!) for invited members and guests; there are more traditions than you can shake a stick at.

Even the colors of Mardi Gras are traditional. Back in 1872, Carnival King Rex selected Purple (symbolizing justice), Green (faith), and Gold (power) as colors for the festivities, and they stuck.

Oddly enough, it was the colors of Mardi Gras that influenced the selection of colors for two of Louisiana’s then-rival universities. According to the SEC Sports Fan Website, the folks from Louisiana State University originally had blue and white as their school colors, but, hoping to celebrate their first football game against Tulane University, they wanted a change.

Some of the guys and their coach went into New Orleans to find colored ribbon to brighten up their gray jerseys. It being just a few months before Mardi Gras season, all they could find were purple and gold cloths (the green had yet to be delivered).

LSU picked up the purple and gold to make rosettes and badges, leaving Tulane to purchase the green when it finally arrived. This they combined with blue to arrive at their school colors.

Curious about my headline? It’s a Cajun expression meaning, “Let the good times roll!”

Don’t Kill Ole Miss!

I received something in my e-mail this morning and am still distressed over it.

It seems my alma mater, Ole Miss, hasn’t had a mascot on its athletic fields since 2003. That’s going on a decade, people!

We used to be the Rebels. Our mascot was a white-haired, suited-up Southern gentleman called Colonel Reb. Our main fight songs were “Dixie” and “Rebel March.” Our flag was the flag of the Confederacy.

So much has changed since I was a student.

And it’s not for the better.

Now I realize in this politically correct culture that certain things had to go by the wayside, but everything?

If I — raised in the North — could rally behind Southern traditions, could embrace them whole-heartedly, could (in short time) fall in love with this university, then anybody could.

Those who can’t should choose another school — period — rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.

A similar thing happened at the University of Illinois a few years back when a very adamant minority convinced the administration that Chief Illiniwek, their student-portrayed Sioux mascot, was “offensive” and “racist.”

I didn’t think so. Still don’t.

But they banned the Chief, leaving the Illini without a mascot.

Just like us Rebels.

Recently, I received an online survey asking me to weigh in on the list of proposed mascots someone had come up with to represent Ole Miss. Talk about a joke! Who in their right mind could rally behind a horse or a lion or two goofy thing-a-ma-bobs named “Hotty” and “Toddy,” for cryin’ out loud??

It infuriates me that this great university has fallen to such depths. No wonder enrollment is down. No wonder students don’t feel any camaraderie there. No wonder alumni are frustrated and frantically searching for ways to inject life into an institution they love.

Some students at Ole Miss have even begun a campaign to select Admiral Ackbar as mascot. He’s got lasers, they say. True, but he’s also this gosh-awful ugly catfish-looking creature from Star Wars.

You can’t blame the kids for trying, but why mess with a good thing?

I don’t believe students choose a university based on its mascot. Nor do I believe they refuse to attend a university based on its mascot. Just take a look at some of the silly mascots on college football fields today — mules at West Point, blue devils at Duke, Stanford’s tree, Syracuse’s orange, the Ohio State buckeye.

Still, there’s something to be said for Tradition. Something to be gained by binding generation after generation with the same songs, cheers, mascots, and symbols.

Something to be mourned when traditions die.

Those who seek to abolish all traces of what Ole Miss stands for need to be stopped in their tracks.

And the only way I can think of to stop them is by hitting them where it hurts — their wallets.

So the next time that perky student calls to ask for your donation, politely tell them ‘No, not until today’s Ole Miss returns to the glory that was Ole Miss.’


Just a tiny suggestion…

It’s traditional for the Notre Dame Band to play the Alma Mater for students and the team after a home football game.

Students link arms and sway while singing, the alumni get teary-eyed, and the team members remove helmets and proceed to the student section, where they join in the song.

It’s unfortunate this tradition can’t be continued during away games.

I understand that the cost of transporting some 400 Band members, plus their instruments and uniforms, to every away game would be prohibitive. But how about sending a trio of trumpet players (or even one?) That way, those students and alumni attending the game, along with the team, could still enjoy a bit of tradition even far from home.

After all, the cheerleaders and leprechaun accompany the team to away games. Why not let one Band kid? It would be an honor to represent the University and the Band — perhaps it could be a rotating honor among senior students — and it could serve as a recruitment tool, too.

Obviously, one person can’t put on a halftime show or even provide sufficient sound from the sidelines to overcome stadium noise. Nor can we expect an opposing team’s band to play Notre Dame’s songs with the same passion as our musicians. But wouldn’t it be grand hearing a trio of Band members harmonizing, or even a solitary trumpet playing, the haunting tune to “Notre Dame, Our Mother?”

At Notre Dame, there’s cohesion among the students, the team, and the alumni. What better way to provide continuity of tradition than to send even a tiny part of the Band to away games?