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Reflecting on a Palm Sunday tradition

The official name the Church gives to Palm Sunday is “Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion.” It’s for obvious reasons: We distribute palms in commemoration of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and we hear the Passion story read in the Gospel.

Growing up, it marked the beginning of several days of church-going … to services that seemed to last a very long time. I liked the procession with the palms, especially when, in California, they were huge fronds that had been trimmed from the palm trees around the church property: Green, alive and heavy!

But, what was most important to me was what happened on the afternoon of Palm Sunday. Our family would gather around the kitchen table and we began to make small crosses from the palm fronds. My mom was really good at making just the right size cuts for the second piece of palm to weave into the longer piece.

After making several crosses, they were placed carefully into the big, thick dictionary until they’d dried out for a couple of days. Then, each palm cross was placed in the Easter card given to grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters and parents on Easter morning.

I’m not certain how the tradition began. Was it an Italian custom? Or a Damiano tradition? No matter … it continues today.

Not an Easter goes by that I don’t send and receive a palm cross from a family member. My mom told me it was a sign of wishing Easter blessings on that person and their household.

I like it. It brings me comfort, solace, good memories.

By the way, as years went by, mom allowed me to graduate to making palm hearts! They’re a bit funky looking, but that didn’t matter then, nor does it now.

Blessings, peace and love to each of you this Holy Week. And, perhaps you’ll want to take up this tradition?

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Sister Paula Damiano

Sister Paula has been a Sister of Providence since 1967. She has ministered as a teacher, director of vocations, pastoral associate and as a General Councilor for the Sisters of Providence. She currently ministers as director of programs and retreats at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

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8 Comments

  1. Jo Gonda Riner on March 28, 2021 at 6:21 am

    Thank you for sharing your family’s Palm Sunday tradition, Paula. My mom saved the blessed palm and burned a bit of it over a candle during big storms. Now that I think of it, I might do the same. For stormy weather and bad mental weather, too.

  2. Joni on March 28, 2021 at 8:12 am

    What a rich family story about Palm Sunday. Thank you for sharing it with us.
    Maybe u could teach us how to make the best cross using the palm.

  3. Maureen Dickinson on March 28, 2021 at 8:52 am

    What a beautiful tradition, Sister Paula! Thank you for sharing. I think we need your classroom instruction next year.

  4. Cathy Allen on March 28, 2021 at 10:15 am

    Thanks for sharing! I don’t know the correct way to make a palm cross but give it a try anyway. At least I know it is a cross!

  5. Linda McMahon A, on March 28, 2021 at 1:20 pm

    A beautiful reflection on tradition – thank you for sharing it. I come from a family with a limited artistic imagination (!) and creating a cross is beyond my practical skills. Our tradition was and is to place the palm behind a crucifix or other sacred image and keep it there until the following year’s Ash Wednesday. Keeping our families’ traditions and their meanings for us is really a blessed gift, isn’t it?

  6. Denise on March 28, 2021 at 1:52 pm

    Paula, In my mind’s eye, I can see Mary Damiamo creating and teaching not only a craft but a life lesson. Thank you! I have never seen or heard of a heart shaped palm. Beautiful!!

  7. Rita Clare Gerardot on March 28, 2021 at 4:19 pm

    Paula, what a lovely memory for you!
    I’ve made small wreaths and tied the ends together with narrow red ribbon. Then I put this over the crucifix in my bedroom.

    The season of Lent has seemed to pass very quickly this year.

    Blessed Holy Week!
    Rita Clare

  8. Arthur on April 2, 2021 at 7:01 pm

    Hi Paula – Camille and I are thinking about you this Easter Season! We miss seeing you more regularly. We hope to visit this summer.
    We love to make palm crosses too. Like Sr. Denise said palm hearts are new to me.
    Peace and love.

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