Palmesunndaag (Palm Sunday)
Palmesunndaag (Palm Sunday) signifies the beginning of Karwoch (Holy Week). It is the final Sunday in the season of Lent (Faschtzeit). Much of the Pennsylvania Dutch community is still informed by generations of protestant congregational affiliations, and the Lutheran and Reformed churches often gathered together in unique Union Churches, many of which still operate in Berks County. These congregations set the tone for the early religious expression in the region, and through their community-centered approach, fostered the blending of the official liturgy with the domestic traditions of the home and farm.
This intersection between the church and the home is particularly important on Holy Week, when a series of significant liturgical days are clustered in over the course of a single week prior to Easter.On Palmesunndaag, the church remembers the accounts in the Gospel narratives of the arrival of Christ in Jerusalem, signaled with the waving of palm branches. Palm branches play a role in church services in local communities, where the branches are waved as a symbol of triumph over death. Left over palms are typically burned to provide ashes for Ash Wednesday (Eschemittwoch) the following year. In Europe, among Roman Catholic and Orthodox communities palms were woven into crosses, roses, or other shapes and blessed during the service. In some protestant communities, this practice was discourage, while others have permitted a modified folk-cultural equivalent.
Among the Pennsylvania Dutch, the weaving of palms during the service into crosses is typically a non-sanctioned activity, but has been considered acceptable and even promoted in certain congregations (as long as it doesn’t distract from the sermon). The woven or plaited crosses were then taken home and displayed as a form of house blessing. Such weavings have even been kept in vehicles as a traveler’s blessing, or placed in the stables to bless livestock.While this tradition of creating woven house blessings on Palm Sunday is typically impossible to implement among non-church-goers, this year’s COVID-19 social distancing policies will make this tradition more difficult, even for the most religiously observant members of the community. In the absence of available palms at home, other species of plants could be employed, such as cattails and even the long flat leaves of daffodils. If you try this at home, share photos of your weavings with us!