Palm Sunday Now and in Victorian Times

Palm Sunday was one of my favorite days growing up! I loved when our deacons passed out palm branches, and the children led a procession around the church waving them. In our small country church, we didn’t get just a leaflet, we each had an entire palm branch. Some of them were big enough to obscure the children carrying them!

When I attended my first Catholic Palm Sunday, I was surprised to see how different their palms looked — like one giant blade of grass. I loved how these could be shaped into a Palm Cross, but was glad they didn’t have children parading with them because being whipped with one accidently would surely hurt!

I feel sorry for Christian children who only get to church on the big days like Easter and Christmas, because days like Psalm Sunday brought Jesus in human-form alive to me when I was a child: I could picture the children surrounding Jesus, their love for him, and their excitement about being with him. I could envision them waving their leaves with joy. I would fall in love with this Jesus all over again, thinking of how this son of God, who belonged on a high throne at the righthand of his Father in Heaven, was riding a small donkey and surrounded by children, peasants, and beggars. Here was this 33-year-old, tenderhearted man, already carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders as he knew he would soon face the cross — celebrating the freedom from sin his death would bring — with children who had been just like me. I pictured Jesus stopping to view Jerusalem and sobbing with grief, oblivious to crowd surrounding him who couldn’t understand that he was mourning the future suffering that would come to his Jewish brothers and sisters. My little heart warmed time and time again on Palm Sundays as I thought of Jesus celebrating with his parade of common folk and then weeping over the future of his people.

What would Palm Sunday have been like in Georgina’s day? Well, when you meet Michaeline in An Impoverished Treasure this summer, you will get a glimpse of what I think it would have been like from my research of Victorian times. It was rare to get Palms in England during Victorian times, so Christians often used leaves of local trees and shrubs to celebrate. In rural areas especially, children would parade outside waving sprigs of box leaves like the ones in the collage I am attaching.

In the collage, you will see also pax cakes which are still an English tradition for Palm Sunday. I included a print from a woodcut lithograph of Palm Sunday that would have been in some Bibles, a painting of a “palm procession” by Cesare Tiratelli, and a painting of a girl placing a sprig of box behind a frame by Alfred Stevens. These all correlate to Georgina’s time.

One more thing… Here is a link to learn more about Palm Sunday from one of my favorite websites:

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