Palm Sunday


Palm Sunday
   In the late Middle Ages, this was one of the most vivid festivals of the year. Before Mass, the priests blessed 'palms' (twigs of sallow, box or yew) which the congregation carried in procession and later took home. During Mass people made crosses, either from their 'palms' or from sticks and string they had brought to the church; these too were blessed, and taken home to ward off evil (Duffy, 1992: 23-7).
   Echoes remained in the secular folk custom of 'going a-palming', common from the 18th century until the mid-19th century. Groups of young people went into the woods to collect the catkin-bearing hazel and sallow, to decorate their homes and bring luck for the year, and to wear in their buttonholes. In northern counties, sallow was still made into crosses and hung on walls; William Henderson recalled making them himself as a boy in the 1820s, 'like a St Andrew's Cross, with a tuft of catkins at each point, bound with knots and bows of ribbon'. In some places those gathering 'palms' then headed for a prominent hill, to dance and hold sports, eat figs and cakes, and drink sugared water. This caused annoyance to landowners whose hedges and woods were invaded, and was held to encourage drunkenness, brawling, and immorality; it was discouraged by the later Victorian gentry.
   See also *fig Sunday, *pax cakes.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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