Christians may not get any closer to heaven by folding the palm reeds given out in the churches of some denominations this weekend, but many will create for themselves a symbol they can display to remind them of God.
Members of Greek Orthodox churches enjoy the Palm Sunday practice, as do some Roman Catholics and Episcopalians.
The crosses are made by folding two reeds in ways that essentially work like knots. No glue, tacks or other clamping or adhesives are used—just folding and, at the end, tucking extra ends into the middle, or cutting them off with scissors. Like a good knot, a tightly folded cross can be quite sturdy and hold up well over time.
Pastor Robert Lamborn of St. Luke's Church in Katonah said the making of palm crosses isn't any kind of requirement or obligation for Christians.
"It's something people do to take the symbol of the beginning of the Palm Sunday service—when Jesus enters Jerusalem—to the end of the service, reminding us of when Jesus died on the cross," he said.
It's enjoyable to do and to think about, said Mother Yejide Peters of All Saints' Church in Briarcliff Manor. Turning a palm reed into a cross—a tactile form of prayer—is appropriate for Holy Week, the church season that starts with a triumphant procession and travels through the crucifixion to get to Easter. "Our moment of joy is a moment of sorrow."
People often keep them for a year, hanging them in their homes as a symbol and remembrance. Sometimes the dried palms are returned to the church and burned during a Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras celebration, to create the ashes that mark the start of the Lenten season, she said.
"It brings the palms full circle," Lamborn said.
Editor's note: This article was originally published just before Palm Sunday in 2011. Anthony Gurliacci, in the accompanying video, is the father of Darien Patch Editor David Gurliacci, who wrote this article and took the video.