March 20 Palm Sunday For Christians, the Sunday at the start of the week leading up to Easter celebrates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem
Outline script for assembly leaders
In some Alpine German towns, the Palm Sunday service begins on a nearby hilltop. Everyone then processes down the hill to the church in the middle of the town. In the procession is a carved figure of Jesus seated on a wooden donkey. It's called a Palmesel (palm ass). This is in memory of how, on the first Palm Sunday, Jesus began his entry into Jerusalem on a hill outside the city. Crowds had cheered Jesus and torn down branches from nearby trees to wave in celebration - just as we might wave flags.
In medieval England, people acted out this story but as palms were unobtainable, they used willow, box or yew branches. This gave rise to regional names for the day: Willow, Yew or Branch Sunday.
In other places, people waved spring flowers. Because of this, the day gained other names: Pascha Floridum (Latin for Flower Easter); Blumensonntag (German for Flower Sunday) and Sul y Blodau (Welsh for Flowering Sunday). In Spain, the day is called Pascua Florida, a name given to the American state of Florida because it was discovered on Palm Sunday by Spanish explorers.
Nowadays, when Christians go to church on this day, they may receive small crosses made out of folded strips of palm. These serve as reminders of the joy of the first Palm Sunday, but also of how the crowds turned against Jesus five days later and demanded his death by crucifixion on Good Friday.
The Palm Sunday story can be found in all four Gospels, with subtle differences: Matthew chapter 21, Mark 11, Luke 19 (from verse 28) and John 12 (from verse 12).
To create a "palm procession", make leaves out of green card or paper and cellotape them to small sticks.
Local churches may be able to supply palm crosses. Try unfolding one to reveal the two interlocking strips of palm, then fold them back as they were. (This can be taxing.) Encourage students to deduce the translations of the foreign names for the day.
In his poem "The Donkey", Gilbert Chesterton imagined the donkey's thoughts on the first Palm Sunday. It is widely anthologised, but is also at www.chesterton.orggkcpoet