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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in Greece Series at GreekPod101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Greek holidays and observances. I’m Michael, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 9- “Palm Sunday.” In Greek, it's called [Κυριακή των Βαΐων]
On the last Sunday before Easter we celebrate Palm Sunday in remembrance of the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. In Greek, Jesus Christ is called [Ιησούς Χριστός].
According to the Scriptures, Christ arrived in Bethlehem riding a donkey, and was met with crowds of Jews welcoming him, cheering and holding palm branches or in Greek [βάγια].
In this lesson, you will learn some of the customs that are performed in various regions of Greece on Palm Sunday.
Now, before we get into more detail, do you know the answer to this question-
Why did the Jews welcome Jesus into Jerusalem with such enthusiasm?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
On Palm Sunday, temples or [ναοί] in Greek are decorated with palm branches. After the end of the liturgy, palm branches plaited in the shape of a cross, or [σταυρός] are given out to members of the congregation. These cross-shaped branches are then placed in the icon corner, or behind doors as protection against evil. An icon corner is a small worship space in homes, similar to an altar, where religious icons, a vigil oil lamp, or other religious items are placed. In regions where palm trees don’t grow, branches from olive, laurel, or willow trees are used instead. These plants symbolized victory for the ancient Greeks and Romans, and still maintain that image today. The branches bear a separate meaning for the Jews, who see them instead as symbols of immortality and eternity. The little donkey, or [γαϊδουράκι] in Greek also symbolizes peace, in contrast to the horse, which bears the opposite symbolism of war. The Greek word for “peace” is [ειρήνη].
In the old days, churches or [εκκλησίες] were supplied with palm branches by newlywed couples, because the gesture was thought to bring luck upon their marriage. It was also believed that palm branches held seminal and healing powers, which led many to hang them on fruit trees in hopes of helping the plant to bear healthy fruit and keeping the fruit from getting chewed by insects. These seminal and healing powers were also thought to be transferrable to people when one person would touch another using a palm branch, bringing about this well-known custom of "palm-hits" or in Greek [βαγιοχτυπήματα]. Over time, more and more women could be observed performing this custom, as well as children, who practiced this in imitation of adults. An example of this can be found in Thrace, where women touch pregnant women with palm branches, in the hopes of making the upcoming childbirth painless.
Girls used to also make wreaths in groups using palm branches, to which they would attach a red string. When they were finished, they would all go down to the stream singing, and throw the wreaths into the water. The girls would watch as the wreaths were carried away by the stream, waiting to see whose wreath would go out of sight first. Whoever’s wreath was the first to go would invite the rest of the girls over to her house, where she would lead them in dancing and singing.
Now it's time to answer our quiz question-
Why did the Jews welcome Jesus into Jerusalem with such enthusiasm?
This is because a few days prior, Jesus had performed the miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus. The news spread quickly, and brought many Jews to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem appreciatively "with palm leaves and branches". The church celebrates the resurrection of Lazarus on the Saturday before Palm Sunday.
How did you like this lesson? Did you learn anything interesting?
Do palm branches have a special meaning in your country like they do in Greece?
Leave us your comments on GreekPod101.com, and we'll see you in the next lesson.

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Do palm branches have a special meaning in your country like they do in Greece?