When is Palm Sunday 2024 and why is it celebrated?

A pile of crosses used on Palm Sunday (Pixabay)
A pile of crosses used on Palm Sunday (Pixabay)

Palm Sunday is now just days away, with the annual Christian commemoration marking the start of Holy Week.

Observed on the last Sunday before Easter by Christians of many denominations, Palm Sunday is one of the most important dates in the Christian calendar.

So, what is the story behind it? Here's everything you need to know.

What is Palm Sunday and how is it related to Easter Sunday?

Palm Sunday is a major Christian feast day and one of the most important in the Christian calendar. It marks the last week of Lent.

Churches celebrate the day with the blessing and distribution of palm branches, often in the form of small crosses. They also hold special services.

In countries where palms are hard to procure, trees such as willow, olive and yew will be used instead.

The use of palms represents the branches the crowd scattered in front of Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem.

Holy Week is the week leading up to Easter Sunday when Jesus is said to have risen from the dead.

The week also includes Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Good Friday marks the date of Jesus' crucifixion.

When is Palm Sunday 2024?

Palm Sunday is always celebrated on the Sunday before Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

This year, it falls on March 24. Good Friday is on March 29 and Easter Sunday is on March 31.

What is the Palm Sunday story?

Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, which the Bible describes in the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

According to the Gospels, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey while crowds greeted him by waving palm branches and spreading their cloaks on the road before him. They shouted "Hosanna!" which means "Save us, we pray!" in Hebrew, and hailed him as the Son of David, a title indicating the long-awaited Messiah.

The significance of this event lies in its fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah, particularly Zechariah 9:9, which says, "Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey."

Jesus' entry into Jerusalem symbolised his messianic mission, but it also set the stage for the events of Holy Week, including his crucifixion and resurrection.

What was the Last Supper?

The Last Supper was the final meal Jesus Christ shared with his disciples before his crucifixion. It is a significant event in Christian theology, as it marks the institution of the sacrament of Holy Communion or the Eucharist.

According to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the Last Supper took place during the Jewish festival of Passover, which commemorates the Israelites' liberation from slavery in Egypt. Jesus and his disciples gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover together.

During the meal, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take, eat; this is my body." He then took a cup of wine, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."

These actions and words symbolise Jesus' impending sacrifice on the cross, where he would offer his body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. Christians believe that through the sacrament of Holy Communion, they spiritually partake in the body and blood of Christ, remembering his sacrifice and renewing their connection to him and one another as members of the Christian community.

During the Last Supper, Jesus also foretold his betrayal by one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, and his denial by another disciple, Peter. After the meal, Jesus and his disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane, where he prayed and ultimately surrendered himself to be arrested by the religious authorities, leading to his trial, crucifixion, and resurrection.