Café Crem

Art, Music and Words around The Coffee Table

Palm Sunday in France

 By Miki

As I said in my previous entry about “God in my life”, I was born into a quite relaxed Catholic family. We didn´t generally go to church on Sundays, but we used to attend the most special religious ceremonies, like on Palm Sunday. I reckon that the main reason was that these ceremonies were much more attractive than the normal Masses with all the special stuff going on! They were also a good opportunity to put beautiful clothes on – surely even a good excuse for the women to buy some new ones- and, perhaps even more important, to gather the whole family and all have a big French lunch together after the Mass! My family was good at that!

Today I want to write about the Palm Sunday in France. As everywhere else I guess the main ceremony is the benediction of the palms. In France, at least where I was born in the Pyrenees we use branches of laurel for the benediction. Elsewhere in France and Europe they might use palm trees, or holly, or olive branches too, whatever grows better and has some symbolic significance

I vaguely remember this ceremony as I was a child. My mother dressed me in a wonderful white dress, cut a laurel branch from the hedge that ran around the house and we then went to the place in front of the church, where all people with laurel branches gathered. This was the best part! But then the Mass was very long, much longer than normal and it was a nightmare for me, for each child I guess!. The priest was reading the entire Passion of the Christ, and then came a great moment again, when he passed down the aisle of the church and tried to bless all the branches throwing around some drops of holy water. It was great fun to try to get some on your own branch!

After the Mass we returned home with the blessed branch and kept it for a very special occasion: the next death in the family. The tradition was, and still is, to put the most recent blessed branch on a small table close to the bed where the dead person is lying, with a dish full of holy water. Every visitor, when he comes to pay homage to the dead, takes the branch, dips it into the water and then blesses the dead, shaking the branch over his body so that some drops of holy water fall on it.

Well, I never did that in my life, and to be honest, I don´t really fancy doing it, being quite scared of corpses… to be honest, believe it or not, I never saw a corpse in my life!!!!

My mother told me that when she was a child, the Palm Sunday was much better for the children. The laurel branches used to look like Christmas trees, because they would hang all sorts of sweets on them, chocolate, nougat, etc… I guess I know what the children do in the church when the sermons last too long!

It has been ages since I attended a Palm Sunday benediction… perhaps I should again one day? I feel some kind of nostalgia when I am writing about it… perhaps one should never deny one´s own roots, of whatever they are made?

Palm Sunday in France
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March 16, 2008 - Posted by | culture, death, Easter, events, family, God in our life, humor, personal, religion, travel | , , , , , ,

6 Comments »

  1. I am a relaxed catholic as well! My perants did not force any religious duties but I enjoyed all the colourful ceremonies and special masses and novenas to different saints. I think it is important to bring children along to these occasions, the memories remain for a long time and do indeed form roots.

    Comment by angela | March 16, 2008

  2. Palm Sunday… is it the celebration of the triumfal entering of Christ in Jerusalem, before his Passion?

    I think – but I mot sure – the plant we Greek-Ortodox use for it is the mistletoe (vasc, in Ro)… A plant which grows in the branches of other trees, making small fruits – or something – very sticky… We used to use that sticky substance to catch little colorful birds…

    Comment by iondanu | March 16, 2008

  3. I think of Palm Sunday as the happy part of EAster – you know the triumphant entrance of Jesus to Jeruselem before suffering on the cross. Your story was beautiful Miki – a treasure really. You are archiving these stories, aren’t you?

    Comment by Susan | March 17, 2008

  4. A wonderfully written account Miki and I hope you had as much fun writing it as I did reading it.
    Your talking to an alter boy here who was taught by nuns from Kindergarten to grade 8.
    I loved as a child the pomp and ceremony of Religious Events and loved going to church everyday. What made it so wonderful was our priest Father Cleary who was made a Monsieur in the church, and they built while he was alive a school and a church in another area near my childhood home. When I was with him he was already in his 70’s and whenever I was troubled by dreams or had questions about Palm Sunday his devotion to the Lord was so lovingly expressed in all his answers to me. I grew up knowing this love of God, and it really disturbs me to see the world speaking about God and Jesus as if they were a part of history to be examined. I do not go to church but you know I did go to confession when my father died because I wanted to start a new life without Dad because I loved him so much. When the priest here said, can I help you? I said, I need to make a confession. We went into his house because that is where I went to find him. When I said Bless Me God for I have sinned. It has been over 30 years since my last confession the priest smiled. I confessed to every sin except killing someone and the priest actually laughed. Made me feel pretty good.
    But going back to how the whole world is in doubt as to the existence in God. I know for sure that I would rather live my life believing in God based on Faith alone. I would give my life for him if he asked me to. I would give with full faith my complete devotion to the work he wants me to do hear on earth. I do not have to prove it. My love of God is so strong that nothing in this world can ever change that. The sad part is the whole world blames God for the mess we are all in while it is man and not God that allows this. I have seen miracles, and I have seen evil, and I have been witness to the Blessed Virgin Mary standing at the foot of my bed and I called my mother while she stood there and told her, and I have smelled roses in my home when we didn’t have any, and I have been touched in a dream on the forhead by Jesus and then woke up my body shaking like I was having an epileptic fit and felt as though so much electrical energy went through my body that I certainly knew something had happened. My wife awoke and I asked her screaming to hold me and she did and it was hard for her and then the shaking stopped and I felt this incredible warmth go through my entire body and I said calmly to Nathalie, I know what God’s love Feels like. Believe me this is the honest truth, and that is why we are hear is it not?

    Comment by Michael | March 18, 2008

  5. @ Angela
    Thank you for leaving such a kind and thoughtful comment. Any kind of “relaxed” religion is very adapted to human needs, I think.
    May I ask where your roots are?

    @Danu
    Yes, this is the entering of Jesus in Jerusalem,and the people laid down small branches of trees in front of him, this is where the tradition with the palms comes from. (I had to ask my mother, I had forgotten!)

    @Susan
    Well, for me, not being religious, all these feasts are connected with fun, holidays and big family feasts! I love them all!
    Concerning archiving… if WordPress doesn’t disappear one day, then yes, my stories are archived!

    @Michael
    So wonderful to read a part of your personal story, of your childhood too. We all have our processes of thoughts in our brains, more or less intelligent, more or less interesting, more or less the sames, but kind of very abstract always, and therefore quite unpersonalized somehow.
    When I get to know somebody better, what I love is the personal story, the details of his/her life, what makes his/her life exactly his own one. I always find that fascinating and so human and so touching.
    It does not matter at all if I agree with the religious interpretation of what happened to you, I totally respect it, and simply enjoy very much to read about it. 1000 thanks, Michale!

    Comment by Miki | March 18, 2008

  6. Quote of the day,
    “You don’t need organized religion to connect with the universe. Often a church is the only place you can go to find peace and quiet… But it shouldn’t be confused with connecting with one’s spirit.” — Alice Walker

    Comment by Michael | March 18, 2008


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