Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Palm Sunday Customs

The following is an excerpt from the Palm Sunday article found on the Fisheaters Web site:

“When Mass is finished, we take the palms home and hang them over crucifixes or holy pictures (I don’t know how universal this is, but an Italian and French custom is to break off a piece of the palm and, while praying to St. Barbara for relief, burn it in times of great storms or natural disasters). Another custom is to shape the palm into Crosses before hanging them (see below). The people of Italy and Mexico shape palms into extremely elaborate and beautiful figures. Also, men in some places will wear a piece of it in their hats or pin it to their lapels, and a piece should also be placed with one’s sick call set.

Some of these same palm branches are saved and burned the next year to make the ashes for the next Ash Wednesday — the palms, which symbolize triumph, and the ashes, which symbolize death and penitence, forming a great symbolic connection between suffering and victory. The next year, when we get new palms, the old palms are burned and their ashes buried.

Now, this day has in the past sometimes been called “Fig Sunday” because just after Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, He cursed the fig tree:

Mark 11:12-14 And the next day when they came out from Bethania, he was hungry. And when he had seen afar off a fig tree having leaves, he came if perhaps he might find any thing on it. And when he was come to it, he found nothing but leaves. For it was not the time for figs. And answering he said to it: May no man hereafter eat fruit of thee any more for ever. (also Matthew 21:18-19)

This cursing is undoubtedly a reference to what would happen to those of Israel who rejected the Messias, as revealed in this parable:

Luke 13:6-9 He spoke also this parable: A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it, and found none. And he said to the dresser of the vineyard: Behold, for these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it done therefore: why cumbereth it the ground? But he answering, said to him: Lord, let it alone this year also, until I dig about it, and dung it. And if happily it bear fruit: but if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.

Because of the cursing of the fig tree, the eating of figs is customary, and here are a few ways to do so:

Ways to eat Figs

At this time of year, the figs you can get will be dried. First, snip off any stems, then plump them up by letting them boil in water for 5 minutes or so, and letting them stand in the water until cool. Now, some options:
1) Slice deep crosses into the tops of 8 oz. of figs and spread open. Blend together 12 oz. of cream cheese and 4 oz. of Gorgonzola or blue cheese. Cut crosses into the figs and stuff with the cheese mixture. Top with a pecan half, chill, and serve cold.

2) Quarter figs. Cut thin slices of prosciutto in half lengthwise. Wrap each quarter in the prosciutto so it resembles a rose. Sprinkle with fresh lime juice and freshly ground black pepper.

3) Coarsely chop 1/2 cup pecans and mix with 8 oz. cream cheese. Slice figs in half lengthwise and spoon cheese mixture into each half.

4) Cut a slit into Calimyrna figs and stuff each with a pistachio. Slice a piece of Canadian-style bacon in half lengthwise. Top the bacon with a fresh leaf of basil, and wrap both around a fig. Place seam-side down on a jellyroll pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Bake in a pre-heated 425 degree oven for 8-10 minutes until bacon is brown.

The Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday following Palm Sunday are another traditional time of cleaning. Just as the house is cleaned during Advent in preparation for Christmas, and just as Shrovetide is spent cleaning in preparation for Lent, these days are spent in preparation of the greatest Feast of the Church year: the Feast of Easter. By Wednesday night, the house should be spotless so that the days of the Sacred Triduum (Holy Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) can be devoted to Christ’s Passion.”

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