Traditionally, Palm Sunday occurs between March 15 and April 18. It is the Sunday before Easter which this year falls on the 28th of March, and begins the Christian commemoration of Holy Week. On Palm Sunday Jesus entered the Holy City of Jerusalem surrounded by a crowd of followers. The palms disbursed by many churches signify the branches that were spread in on the road as Jesus approached.

This last Sunday of Lent is also called Passion Sunday. The Biblical accounts of the last days of Christ's life all agree that as he returned to Jerusalem to celebrate.

Passover with his followers, the crowds who were eager to proclaim him the Messiah, "Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord." (John 12:13)

Today, Christian churches traditionally hold services on Palm Sunday and leaves of palm, often shaped into crosses to symbolize Jesus' last hours on the cross, are given to the congregation. These palm fronds are also used in palm weaving which produces beautiful woven symbols from the palms to hang in the Christian home during the year.

In churches that observe Ash Wednesday by giving ashes to their members, these palms are burnt for use in this symbolic ceremony. In Eastern Orthodox churches the leaves of the bay or laurel tree are distributed and used in cooking during the year. In many areas there are processions with the palm fronds to commemorate the journey of Christ. In Spain Domingo de Ramos, Palm Sunday, signals the beginning of Semana Santa, Holy Week. Processions and other public celebrations continue until Lunes de Pascua, the Monday after Easter.

Traditional foods served on Palm Sunday include figs because Jesus is said to have eaten figs on his entry into the city of Jerusalem. Some people still call this day Fig Sunday. In Wales the day is known as Sul y Blodau or Flowering Sunday because of the association with the flowering of the fig tree.

They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" (Matthew 21:7-9)

Figs are one of the most luscious fruits, both fresh and dried, and they work well as accompaniments to savory dishes. The calimyrna variety are large, light in color and incredibly sweet, and this recipe enhances their natural texture and flavor with spices, scallions and vinegar for a balance of sweet, sour and spicy. Serve this chutney on its own with crackers or pita or add to meat, poultry or vegetable dishes.

Makes about 1 cup

1 T. oil
¼ t. coriander
¼ t. cumin
¼ cardamom
½ t. cayenne pepper
½ t. cinnamon
1½ cups diced dried calimyrna figs, stems removed
¼ cup dried currants or raisins
¼ cup diced scallions
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
¾ cups honey
½ t. salt, plus more to taste

Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.
Add remaining ingredients and, stirring often, let simmer until cooked down to a thick syrup, about 10-15 minutes.
Serve with crackers or pita as an appetizer, or with meat, poultry or vegetable entrees.

AND FINALLY….It was Palm Sunday, but five-year-old Johnny had to stay home from church because he was sick.
When the family returned home carrying palm branches, he asked what they were for.

His mother explained, "People held them over Jesus' head as he walked by."

"Wouldn't you know it," Johnny said, "The one Sunday I don't go, Jesus shows up!"