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What is Palm Sunday and how is it celebrated worldwide?

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Palm Sunday commemorates the Christian belief in the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, when he was greeted by cheering crowds waving palm branches that they set out on the ground along his path, according to the Bible.

This year, Palm Sunday falls on March 24. Also known as Passion Sunday, it marks the start of Holy Week. The most sacred week of the Christian year includes the Good Friday re-enactment of Jesus鈥 crucifixion story and death, and their belief in his resurrection on Easter.

Here is a quick look at Palm Sunday鈥檚 significance.

IS THERE A DONKEY IN THIS STORY?

Yes.

The procession of Jesus into Jerusalem is described by the four Gospel writers in the Bible.

The Gospels differ, but based on one expert they agree on this: Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey 鈥 or a colt. So, which one is it?

as 鈥渁 young male horse that is usually not castrated.鈥 But in the Bible, is used almost exclusively for young donkeys, not horses, , professor emerita of religious studies at the College of the Holy Cross.

Pierce writes that this brings to mind a reference from the Book of Zechariah in Jewish scriptures, where the prophet describes a victorious king who enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey.

In Judaism, she says, the passage from Zechariah , a spiritual king who would peacefully redeem Israel, and is interpreted as .

鈥淚n Christianity, becomes almost a symbol of Christ himself, given how it patiently suffers and bears others鈥 burdens,鈥 . 鈥淗orses, on the other hand, tend to be associated with royalty, power and war.鈥

WHAT ABOUT THE PALMS?

In the biblical Palm Sunday story, a cheering crowd greeted Jesus along the road. Some spread their garments on the ground; others threw down leafy branches they had cut from the fields. In the Gospel of John, they are branches from palms, a tree that and triumph.

In the Gospel of Matthew, people began to shout: 鈥淗osanna to the son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!鈥 The word 鈥淗osanna鈥 was a plea for salvation and an exclamation of adoration.

After the procession, the Bible says Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple.

HOW IS PALM SUNDAY CELEBRATED?

The ritual or liturgy typically starts with a blessing of the palms by clergy. It鈥檚 followed by a reading of the Passion of Christ, meaning an account of the final events of Jesus鈥 life.

Some ceremonies in German-speaking countries used to include a figure of Jesus riding a donkey, . The figure is called a 鈥 ,鈥 or German for 鈥減alm donkey,鈥 according to New York鈥檚 Metropolitan Museum of Art, which on its site recounts how worshippers would lay palms on the ground before the Palmesel during lively processions.

Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land mark Palm Sunday by holding Masses and processions retracing Jesus鈥 triumphal entry. Worshippers carry palm fronds and olive branches and march from the top of the neighboring Mount of Olives to Jerusalem鈥檚 historic Old City, home to holy sites of the three Abrahamic monotheistic faiths.

In churches around the world, the palms are often taken home by congregants, and some will become ashes.

HOW DO THE PALMS TURN INTO ASHES?

Ashes can be purchased, but some churches make their own by burning the palms from prior years.

They鈥檙e used to make the ashes for Ash Wednesday, the solemn day of fasting and reflection that signals the start of Christianity鈥檚 most penitent season.

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Associated Press religion coverage receives support through the AP鈥檚 with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.