…including some strange premonitions in keeping with good old Irish folklore!
Christians around the world will prepare for Palm Sunday tomorrow – the day Jesus Christ made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. While Catholics have marked the day for centuries with special liturgies, there were additional special traditions that took place in Ireland that you might be surprised to find out about.
Palm Sunday used to be called “Yew Sunday” – or more correctly speaking Domhnach an Iúir. Indeed, the branches used to make the small crosses were not made of date palms, but of yew sprigs which were readily available on the Emerald Isle.
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A little Protestant generosity
In her study of old Ireland and its Palm Sunday traditions, Bridget Haggerty discovered that a Protestant gentleman in County Fermanagh cut sprigs of yew every Palm Sunday and left them on his garden wall for Catholics who found it difficult to come to church to be blessed.
The post-mass palms
While most families today still go to Mass together on Palm Sunday, in the past, all family members went to church. After mass, the men would break off part of their “palm” and put it in their lapel or hat. They would keep it there for the next few weeks for further blessings, according to Haggerty’s research.
Women and children, however, would take their palms home and place one in the barn for their animals to be blessed, one in the house for other blessings, and another would be used as a sprinkling medium. Holy water.
Even eggs have a blessing!
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In most of Ireland, families would char the tip of their palm and use it to mark eggs that were about to hatch. In parts of Ireland, mainly Mayo and Galway, the palm was shredded and added to grain used to feed poultry.
As eggs were included in the Lenten fast, children began collecting eggs from their neighbors on Palm Sunday. These would then be distributed on Good Friday in preparation for the Easter Sunday celebrations.
The importance of the date
Many of you know that Ireland is rich in folklore. Although deeply devout, some Catholics of the past believed that if Palm Sunday fell on the same day as St. Patrick’s Day, when the shamrock and the palm were worn at the same time, then something extraordinary could happen this year- the. , Good or bad.
While some thought it might signal a particularly good summer, others predicted (or just hoped) that the problems might end.
Similar predictions were made if Palm Sunday coincided with the Annunciation. When Haggerty did some research, she discovered that in 1347 the Annunciation and Palm Sunday were celebrated on the same day. It was the year the Black Death began its murderous journey across Europe, eventually killing a third of Europe’s population.
However, when both days fell on the same day in 1945, it was the year World War II ended.
The last time these two celebrations were on the same day in 2018 there was a series of happy and sad events across the world, so as with all good folklore, this should definitely be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s fascinating to see how, even in the past, people liked to make predictions and used important days in the Church to make sense of them.