02 April 2010

Holy Week: Palm Sunday

I was talking with one of my students the other day about Easter, and she made the comment that one thinks of some traditions as universal until you are confronted with someone who does something different. This is common knowledge, but sometimes we still forget it when it comes to things like holidays which are shared among countries. My student is from Poland, and she thought that everyone celebrated Easter Monday by throwing water on each other. Let me specify: the tradition used to be that boys would throw a small amount of water (like a glass of water) on a girl if they liked them. It has turned into a slightly more dangerous event, and these days, people try to stay home on Easter Monday morning in order to avoid being doused with huge buckets of water by “hooligans.” I have never heard of this before, but my student grew up thinking everyone did this on the day after Easter.

So, I have been investigating some of the differences between my own Easter and Holy Week traditions and Georgian traditions. This year is uncommon with Orthodox and Catholic/ Protestant Easter falling on the same day. Usually, due to different calendars, they are on different weeks.
As luck would have it, when I was celebrating Palm Sunday last week, so was Georgia. Georgians follow a similar tradition of having foliage blessed by a priest on this day, but instead of palms, they use boxwood and pussywillow branches (at the Catholic church we attended, they used olive branches), even though there are palm trees all over the country. A Georgian told me that they believe that Jesus was greeted by palm branches according to their bible, but yet boxwood has become the tradition.
As a way to display the branches, they are often sold in little baskets which make it easy to put the branches on a table in your home and dry for the whole year.
It was beautiful to walk around all day and see people selling branches and baskets (very inexpensively) and see others carrying huge bundles around.
My polish student also told me about the palms they use on Palm Sunday in Poland. Highly artistic, they are supposed to be saved for one year and discarded, but as you can see, they are so nice many people keep them for several years. There are palms involved in the construction but clearly other materials as well.

These last two are not my pictures, but give you the idea of how different traditions can be.

More to come soon...Sora

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