This year, Palm Sunday falls on April 9. It is the Sunday before Easter, and it commemorates the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem before his arrest on Holy Thursday and his crucifixion on Good Friday. It marks the beginning of Holy Week, the final week of Lent. This is recorded in all four of the Gospels (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-38; and John 12:12-18).

Five days before Passover, Jesus came from Bethany to Jerusalem. People were gathered in town for the Jewish celebrations, but were also curious to see Jesus because of his works and teachings, and because he had recently performed the miracle of resurrecting Lazarus.

Prior to arriving, Jesus sent two of his disciples to bring him a colt of a donkey, he sat upon it and entered the city. When people heard that Christ was entering the city, they went out to meet him with palm branches, laying their garments on the ground before him, and shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he that comes in the Name of the Lord, the King of Israel!”

Back in biblical times, only kings and nobles arriving in procession rode the back of a donkey, since that animal was considered a symbol of peace and those who rode upon them proclaimed peaceful intentions. To lay palm branches signified that the king or dignitary was arriving in victory or triumph, that’s why most of the time, Palm Sunday is referred to as “Jesus’ triumphant arrival in Jerusalem.”

Nowadays, we celebrate Palm Sunday recreating Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem. It begins with the blessing of the palms, followed by a procession and later mass, in which the Passion and the Benediction are sung. Many people make crosses with their palm branches, keep them and take them home after church. In the countries where palm trees are not too common, branches of yew, willow, and sallow trees are used.

The palms blessed in the ceremony are burned at the end of the day. The ashes are then preserved for next year's Ash Wednesday celebration. Like Share Faith wrote, “Palm Sunday is an occasion for reflecting on the final week of Jesus' life. It is a time for Christians to prepare their hearts for the agony of His Passion and the joy of His Resurrection.”