Palm Sunday is a Christian moveable feast that falls on the Sunday before Easter. The feast commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in each of the four canonical Gospels. Palm Sunday marks the first day of Holy Week, the last week of the Christian solemn season of Lent that precedes the arrival of Easter.

In the Bible, as well as from sources outside of the Bible, we see that the use of “palm branches” was often tied to “victory.” The Bible first shows us this in conjunction with the “Feast of Tabernacles.” As a part of this celebration, the Israelites were commanded by God to construct and live in “booths” (for 7 days), which were made from “the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook” (Lev 23:40)(also see: Neh 8:14-18). This was done to commemorate the way the people of Israel lived after God gave them “victory,” and brought them out of Egypt.

     While not recorded in the Bible, history tells us that waving palm branches was also done to celebrate kings and conquerors. We also know that in Greek athletic competitions, victors were often given a palm branch, which they would wave to celebrate their “victory.” Palm branches are a part of Christian worship on Palm Sunday, or Passion Sunday, as it is sometimes called. This event commemorates Jesus Christ‘s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, as foretold by the prophet Zechariah.

Palm Branches on Palm Sunday

  • In the Bible, Jesus ‘ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem with the waving of palm branches is found in John 12: 12-15 (see below); Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; and Luke 19:28-44.
  • Today Palm Sunday is celebrated one week before Easter, on the first day of Holy Week.
  • The first celebration of Palm Sunday in the Christian church is uncertain. A palm processional was recorded as early as the 4th century in Jerusalem, but the ceremony was not introduced into Western Christianity until the 9th century.

The Bible tells us that people cut branches from palm trees, laid them across Jesus’ path and waved them in the air as he entered Jerusalem the week before his death. They greeted Jesus not as the spiritual Messiah who would take away the sins of the world, but as a potential political leader who would overthrow the Romans. They shouted “Hosanna [meaning “save now”], blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”

Cross made out of palm fronds… see how to make on YouTube

Jesus’ Triumphant Entry in the Bible

All four Gospels include the account of the Triumphal Entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem:

The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted, “Praise God! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hail to the King of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said: “Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem. Look, your King is coming, riding on a donkey’s colt.​” (John 12:12-15)

Palm Branches Today

Today, many Christian churches distribute palm branches to worshipers on Palm Sunday, which is the sixth Sunday of Lent and last Sunday before Easter. On Palm Sunday, people remember Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, praise him for the gift of salvation, and look expectantly to his second coming.

Customary Palm Sunday observances include the waving of palm branches in procession, the blessing of palms, and the making of small crosses with palm fronds.

Palm Sunday also marks the beginning of Holy Week, a solemn week focusing on the final days of Jesus Christ’s life. Holy Week culminates on Easter Sunday, the most important holiday in Christianity.