Celebrating Palm Sunday in Germany with Palmbuschen
Easter week begins with Palm Sunday, the 6th Sunday of Lent, which is the Sunday before Easter. The name comes from the Palms that were laid at the feet of Jesus’s donkey as he and his followers made their way into Jerusalem. On Palm Sunday in Germany, especially in Bavaria, this procession is recreated by clergy and others walking through the town singing hymns, praying and carrying symbolic bouquets to be blessed at the church.
In 2024, Palm Sunday falls on March 24
Palm Sunday in Germany
The Church has held Palm Sunday processions in Germany since the 4th or 6th century. In the 10th Century, the Palmbuschen (Palm Bouquet) and Palmesel (Palm Donkey) became part of the village traditions.
What are Palmbuschen?
Palmbushen … or Palm bouquets… are carried in the Palm Sunday Procession to be blessed. Because Palms are not native to Germany, tradition had to change a bit. Different regions present different types of bouquets. It could be a simple bouquet of Pussy Willows… or, as in Berchtesgarden, an elaborate bouquet made from various plants and dyed wood shavings. Most often, Palmbushen are made up of Seven Natural Materials (representing the last 7 Words Jesus said on the Cross)… including Pussy Willows, Box/Beech, Juniper, Holly, Yew, Cedar, Ivy, Larch, Oak and Red Juniper are bound to a stick, or woven willow handle. Whatever is green. Special decorations like carved birds, decorated hollowed out eggs and Krüsel (small tufts of colored carved wood shavings) ribbons, and even apples or oranges.
On Palm Sunday in Germany, after the procession, the Palmbuschen are blessed, and then are taken home. In old days, the head of the household would take the bouquet apart, and put branches around the house and barn for protection. The first branch would always go to the Herrgottswinkel (Crucifix) to protect the household from evil. A branch would be put in the attic to protect against lightening strike. Others would go into the ground to insure good crops. Some people would even swallow one of the pussy willow buds to protect against sore throat. (I think that would tickle!)
These branches and parts would stay in place for a year until the following Ash Wednesday… then they would be carefully taken down, burned, and the Ashes used to make the cross on the forehead during the priest’s blessing.
Some Palmbuschen are added to the Easter Bonfires.
DALIBRI [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
Palmbushenbinden (Palm Bouquet Binding) in Berechtesgarden
You can see the beautiful celebration of Palm Sunday in Germany….
And What is the Palmesel?
The procession on Palm Sunday usually starts at the Rathaus (City Hall), and is led through town by the Palmesel (Palm Donkey), since Jesus came into Jerusalem on a Donkey. But… who gets to be the donkey? Most families pick the person who got out of bed last to be the Palmesel for the day. Everyone spends the day teasing him (or her).
How to Make A Palmbushen
photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
A traditional Palmbuschen has 7 Natural Materials- (choose any 7) Some plants have special meanings, and are included for their symbolism.
Pussy Willow– Sign of new life and new beginnings
Box/Beech– Symbolizes life
Larch– Protector of Spirits
Ivy- Symbol of Eternity and Faithfulness
Hazelnut tree– Symbol of Wisdom and Fertility
Juniper– Symbol of Fertility
Holly- Symbolizes the Crown of Thorns
Cedar– Associated with Mary, mother of Jesus, and assumption.
Willow to wrap
Choose your natural materials and make a bouquet. Be sure to add Pussy Willow, also known as Palmkatzchen (Palm Kittens!). Use wire to bind it the bouquet to a wooden handle. Weave willow around the wire to cover it (alternatively, use another cover like florist tape).
Decorate with ribbons and flowers.
Be as simple or as creative as you like!
Watch how to make Palmbuschen HERE
More German Crafts and Recipes for Easter