Palm Sunday, the first Sunday after the first full moon in the Spring Season, marks off the beginning of the Holy Week, a Christian Celebration that commemorates the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. It takes place on the week previous to Easter, about which we wrote an article last year:
Even in secular nations like Catalonia, some traditions during the Holy Week are celebrated at present, such as the blessing of palm leafs and branches on Palm Sunday.
Tradition states that godfathers buy their godsons and goddaughters specially handcrafted ornaments made from palm leaves, called Palmas and Palmones, to be blessed by the priest on Palm Sunday. Palmas -the most stylized figures- are given to girls and Palmones -long palm leaves- are given to boys. The popular tradition also states that worshipers should attend mass well-dressed and wear some garment for the first time. There’s a saying referring to that which goes: Domingo de Ramos, quien no estrena algo, se le caen las manos (On Palm Sunday those that fail to wear something new, their hands will fall off!). Once blessed, Palmas and Palmones are hanged in the balconies for the rest of the year for protection and good luck or otherwise burnt in order to spread the ashes on the fields and thus make the land more fertile.
Easter Palms: pieces of handcraft
Palmas and Palmones are real pieces of handcraft and their elaboration can take around two hours of handy work. The first -palm tree leaves- also need a long period of preparation in order to keep their white color and prevent it to turn green. This is achieved by tying together the palm tree leaves and covering them with a black plastic so the sunlight doesn’t reach them.
A whole year later, leaves are cut obtaining a vegetal fiber suitable for braiding. Then the handcraft works starts by braiding the leaves and creating ornamental shapes out of the palm leaves. Ribbons, candies, sweets and cookies recreating figures from the Passion like the sun, the moon or the rooster, are added to the palm ornament as decorations.
The ritual of blessing Palmas and Palmones is the first of many other rituals and celebrations that take place during the Holy Week, all referring to the latest moments of Jesus on Earth. Those passages of the New Testament are recalled through different traditions including processions, theatrical dramatizations, liturgical activities and rituals that worship the figure of Lord. Although religion doesn’t have a central role in most people’s lives in Catalonia, many celebrations during the Holy Week continue nowadays as family festivities and traditions.