On Palm Sunday Christians celebrate the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, the week before his death and resurrection. For many Christian churches, Palm Sunday, often referred to as “Passion Sunday,” marks the beginning of Holy Week, which concludes on Easter Sunday.
The Bible reveals that when Jesus entered Jerusalem, the crowds greeted him by waving palm branches and covering his path with palm branches. Immediately following this great time of celebration in the ministry of Jesus, he begins his journey to the cross.
The biblical account of Palm Sunday can be found in Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; and John 12:12-19.
In the Philippines, communities re-enact Jesus’ triumphal entry with a procession. A statue of Christ astride a donkey (the humenta) or the officiating priest on horseback processes around or towards the local church along with congregants bearing ornately woven palaspas(palm branches). In some towns, elderly women spread heirloom tapis (“aprons” made for this sole purpose) or large cloths along the route. Children dressed as angels sometimes sing the Osana (“Hosanna”) whilst strewing flowers about.
Once blessed, the palaspas are taken home by the faithful and placed on altars, or hung beside, on, or above doorways and windows. Although the true purpose of this custom is to welcome Christ, many Filipinos hold the fronds to be apotropaic, able to banish evil spirits, avert lightning, and prevent fires. There is also a folk tradition of feeding pieces of the palm leaves to roosters for sabong (cockfighting), a practise that was strongly discouraged by the Archbishop of Manila, Luis Antonio Tagle.