Every year, on the Sunday just before Easter, Christians celebrate Palm Sunday to commemorate the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
In most countries, the main event during Palm Sunday is a procession where Christians carry blessed palms and later take them home or leave them at church.
In this article, we explain where these blessed palms come from, what they mean and how to dispose of them without committing a sin?
What You'll Learn Today
What Are Blessed Palms And What Do They Mean?
Most churches, particularly Catholic churches, don’t just use any branches or palms during the Palm Sunday celebration.
The palms first have to be blessed by a church clergy – usually a deacon or priest. These palms are then distributed to the faithful on the day of celebration.
Why do Christians celebrate Palm Sunday with palms?
The use of palms is reminiscent of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem just before the beginning of his trial, crucifixion and resurrection.
As Jesus rode into Jerusalem in a donkey, crowds waved branches and placed them along the road.
Matthew 21:8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
The Gospel of John specifically mentions palm branches.
John 12:12-13 The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him…
At that time, palm branches symbolized victory and triumph. Since Jesus was entering Jerusalem in a triumphant procession, the people celebrated with palm branches.
Today, palm branches are still a symbol of victory. One of the most common uses is on artwork commemorating martyrs. A palm branch is often shown to symbolize the martyr’s triumph over the flesh and death.
Where Do Blessed Palms Come From?
Blessed palms come from the Church. They are blessed by the priest and then distributed to the faithful.
Where does the Church get these palms from?
Most Catholic churches get their palms from liturgical and church suppliers. These are businesses that sell things like candles, rosaries, clergy robes, communion juice and other church supplies.
These businesses, in turn, get palms from various producers in the United States. California, Texas and Florida are major suppliers of church palms.
The palm branches are carefully harvested and delivered to churches a week or two before Palm Sunday. They are then blessed and given to church members.
What Do I Do With Blessed Palms?
After the Palm Sunday celebrations, you can leave the branches in the church. They will be collected and saved until the following year when they’ll be burned and the ash is used during Ash Wednesday.
But most people opt to take the palms home with them.
If you take the blessed palms home, you have to treat them with respect. That’s because the palms are blessed and are thus considered sacramental.
Here’s what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says regarding sacramentals.
CCC 1667 “Holy Mother Church has, moreover, instituted sacramentals. These are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy.”
The Catechism further says that sacramentals prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it.
So don’t use the blessed palms in any way that dishonors their meaning and symbolism. For instance, it would be sacrilegious to use the palms as a fly swatter or to remove cobwebs.
Here are some respectful things you can do with blessed palms.
- Put them up in your home as ornamentals. They look great next to other sacramentals like rosaries. Every time you see the palms, they remind you of the great work that Jesus did and his victory even in death.
- Make palm crosses. You can make small palm crosses that you and other family members can wear. To make a cross, take two branches and form them into the shape of a cross then staple them where they meet.
- Weave the palms into various shapes. You can weave the palm branches into crosses, rosses, hearts or a crown of thorns. There are various online tutorials you can follow.
Can You Use Blessed Palms For Good Luck?
Some Catholics place the palms under their mattress, in their car or some other place for good luck.
Others burn blessed palms before a natural disaster like a hurricane, believing it will protect them.
This may seem harmless but you risk dabbling in the occult and witchcraft, which the Bible is strongly against.
It’s similar to using blessed palms as an amulet or to ward off evil spirits or for magical reasons. It not only goes against the scripture, it dishonors the purpose of blessed palms.
Keeping blessed palms at home or on our person should only serve as a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice and victory. The presence of the palms and other sacramentals like the rosary should encourage us when life is hard and give us joy and hope when we are down.
The book Directory on popular piety and the liturgy puts it clearly:
Palms or olive branches should not be kept as amulets, or for therapeutic or magical reasons to dispel evil spirits or to prevent the damage these cause in the fields or in the homes, all of which can assume a certain superstitious guise.
Palms and olive branches are kept in the home as a witness to faith in Jesus Christ, the messianic king, and in his Paschal Victory.
How To Dispose Of Blessed Palms
You can leave the blessed palms at church (or return them the following year so that they can be burned) or take them home and use them as ornamentals.
You can also dispose of the blessed palms. As with any sacramentals like holy water and rosaries, you have to be careful how you dispose of blessed palms.
Chucking them in the garbage or out in the garden is not the right way to dispose of them.
The right way is to bury or burn them.
If you burn the palm fronds, make sure you bury the ashes in the soil.
If you don’t have access to a garden where you can bury blessed palms or their ashes, take the branches back to your parish. They’ll know what to do with them.