Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Willows, Palms, Crosses, and Donkeys for Holy Week

When our children were young, during Holy Week they looked forward to hanging beautifully decorated eggs (that I collected) on our Easter Egg Tree each day.  By Easter - Pascha - the tree would be full.  I make my egg tree every year with pussy willow branches stuck into florist foam, which I nestle down into a pretty tin.

This past Sunday was Orthodox Palm Sunday, which is known as "Willow Sunday" in Russia. Since I'm blogging about Russia this month, I thought I'd share a little bit about the Russian tradition for Palm Sunday: If you remember, when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, the celebrating people lay down palm branches in front of him. In Russia, where the climate is unfavorable for palm, palm branches have always been substituted with willow boughs...(Read more here).

© RIA Novosti. Yevgeny Yepanchintsev - source
© RIA Novosti. Alexander Kryazhev - source

In my own Antiochian Orthodox parish we use the more typical palms on Palm Sunday, holding crosses made from palm branches as we process around the church.  You can learn how to make your own palm cross here - the step-by-step instructions are easy enough for kids, from the blog Good, True, and Beautiful!

Here's something I'd never seen: a palm donkey!  My husband has an employee who is Coptic (Egyptian) Orthodox.  She gave one to him that she had made with her daughter, telling my husband, "Because Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey."  Isn't it cute? (note: the palm cross behind the donkey is ours - it's not attached to the donkey. Everything starts out green, but as it dries it becomes this straw color).

Here is a lovely picture book about Palm Sunday, The Entry of Our Lord into Jerusalem, by Sister Elayne (now Mother Melania), with beautiful watercolor illustrations by Bonnie Gillis (order here from Archangels Books). It is part of "The Twelve Great Feasts" series...available here, from Ancient Faith Publishing.

I took the photo below of my daughter with my grandson at our church on Tuesday night at one of our Bridegroom services. (The name of the service is from the figure of the Bridegroom in the parable of the Ten Virgins found in Matt. 25:1-13) You can see how we adorn the icons with palm branches too.

"Behold the Bridegroom comes at midnight, and blessed is the servant whom he shall find watching, and unworthy is the servant whom he shall find heedless.
Beware, therefore, oh my soul. Do not be weighed down with sleep, lest you be given up to death, and lest you be shut out of the kingdom.
But rouse yourself, crying, Holy, Holy, Holy are Thou O God."

We sang this beautiful hymn the first three nights of Holy Week at the Bridegroom services (Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday).  You can listen to a beautiful rendition of it by clicking here.

Pascha is getting closer...tonight we have the Twelve Gospels service, then Holy Friday. Saturday morning we have a service, and at midnight we will be celebrating the "Feast of Feasts": Christ's Resurrection, Pascha!

The Three Day Pascha-series, is a set of three books (also by Mother Melania and Bonnie Gillis). It features the books Great and Holy Friday, Great and Holy Saturday, and Pascha, the Feast of Feasts.  The set is available here.


  1. What beautiful photos and what a pretty Pascha tree! And a great idea!
    That palm frond donkey is pretty impressive! I've never seen anything like that!
    The picture of the little girls with the willow is so sweet, it could be a painting!
    I've been invited to attend my first Pascha this weekend, I just hope I can stay up late enough, hehe, I may need an afternoon nap beforehand ;)

    1. I hope you can stay awake! Let me know what you think of it. :)

  2. I adore your arrangement, the branches, eggs, and icons! ♥ My girls helped make palm crosses and we tied them up with pussywillows to be blessed and passed out last week. I hope you have a wonderful Pascha!!!

    1. Thanks, Martha! You did palms and willows together? - love that! Blessed Pascha to you and your family too.