Happy Palm Sunday
Palm Sunday — celebrated this year by Catholics and Protestants on April 14 — is a special day for Christians. Here are five things Christians and non-Christians should know about the day.
Palm Sunday has a particular significance for Indiana … tons of tornadoes! Palm Sunday in 1965 saw a wave of tornado death and destruction greater than ever before (or after). Google “Palm Sunday” and Indianapolis: unlike other cities, which will recommend church services, you’ll get pages and pages about 1965. (The weather forecast for 2019 is pretty good.)
The story of Palm Sunday is full of inversions. Clifford Geertz (and many other anthropologists write about symbolic status inversions that mark many festivals. Holi (being celebrated on April 14 by the Indian Association of Indianapolis) is an example: lower caste members can pelt the high-borne with colored dust without fear of punishment. The inversions of Palm Sunday are symbolic. A conquering king rides into Jerusalem not on a steed, but on a beast of burden. Within days, a crowd that acclaimed Jesus as king turned against him and demanded his execution.
Palm Sunday is the day palm trees say “We’re glad we’re not Christmas trees!” Think of the logistics of delivering freshly cut palm fronds to tens of thousands of churches around the country on this one day. (This year Orthodox Christians celebrate Palm Sunday on April 21, a week later than Catholics and Protestants.) There’s a good chance that a fair percentage of the trucks you’re seen on the freeways here in “The Crossroads of America” have been transporting palms. Palm farms are mostly in Florida, Texas, and California, and it’s a year-round business. It makes the Christmas tree industry seem leisurely. Good news for the palm trees: unlike Christmas trees, palm trees aren’t chopped down.
Palm Sunday unites Christians, but has lessons from which everyone can learn. Palm Sunday is recounted in all four of the canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Unlike many other parts of the life of Jesus, from his birth to his death, there are few apparent inconsistencies or contradictions between the Gospels. There’s nothing about celebrating Palm Sunday that divides Christian denominations (unlike, for instance, the status of Saints). But non-Christians can learn from Palm Sunday. The fickleness of the crowd, the humility of power, the story of a person preparing for his death … it is powerful, regardless of what I may think about divinity or resurrection.
Just about everyone in the world seems to celebrate Palm Sunday more colorfully than Americans.