08 April 2009


Palm Sunday here in Catalonia is known as diumenge de rams, or "branches Sunday," which is funny considering that there actually are palms, in abundance, in this Mediterranean locale. Unlike, say, Vermont, where our palm branches must be imported from who knows where.

In fact, as I learned last weekend, Palm Sunday is actually more Eastery than Easter Sunday, in the sense that even if you never go to church during the rest of the year, Palm Sunday is the day you dress up your kids in patent leather shoes and pastel outfits, and take them to mass. According to the Mister's grandmother, everyone is supposed to wear something brand new for the first time. She debuted a lovely blue coat.

Another important ritual is the buying and waving of the palmons or palmes, the former being tall straight palm fronds gathered into a bundle and traditionally carried by little boys, the latter being palm fronds woven into miraculously intricate confections and carried by the girls.

These are sold the Saturday prior to Palm Sunday on the Rambla Catalunya, and since Saturday was a beautiful day, I took a bike ride down to see all of the handiwork. Each booth is laden with palms of all shapes and sizes, from delicate floral fingerlings like the one my mother-in-law gave me to elaborate works of art several meters high. In addition, they sell the candy rosaries, ribbons and tiny toys that are used to decorate the palms, as well as large bunches of laurel and thyme, which are also carried to mass on Sunday morning. (I would have taken pictures, but the Mister has the camera in Japan, with instructions to take pictures of the cherry trees. The photograph above comes from another blog, in Catalan, about the holiday.)

On Sunday I met the Mister's grandmother, mother, and our little niece in the plaza in front of the church, along with a huge crowd of other families. When the priest came out and read the Biblical passage describing the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, at every "alleluia," the palms and branches were lifted high into the air and shaken, and the straight bundles of palms carried by the boys were tamped into the ground. (From what I understand, they compete to see who can end up with the greatest length of frayed "broom.")

After Easter, many families hang the palms on their balconies, where they spend the year until the next Ash Wednesday, when they are burned to make the ash. If you're ever in Spain, if you look up from time to time, you'll notice the drying palmes strung across balconies' metal fretwork.

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