DIY Palm Sunday

Easter Sunday, and thereabouts, is likely to be DIY this year – for many Western Christians (12th April) and Eastern Orthodox (19th April) alike. Thanks to the ingenuity of many people, paid and unpaid, there are a wide variety of online options to tune into the services comprising both Palm Sunday and the Tridium (the liturgical period of time from the commemoration of the Last Supper and Agony in the Garden, terminated by the Arrest of Jesus of Nazareth on Maundy Thursday; his Imprisonment, Trial, Torture, brutal Execution and Burial on Good Friday; and the experience of the Empty Tomb on Easter Morning, the Appearances to his Followers and subsequent Proclamation of his Resurrection.

The four canonical Gospels do not exactly coincide over the sequence and nature of these events, and there are many other subplots in the story, such as the Betrayal by Simon as well as those which have assumed a story of their own, such as the Veil of Veronica and, most famously, the Holy Grail. Mention of the latter is likely to produce hilarity in fans of Monty Python, as is mention of any of these events. However, especially for the older generation of Christians (with the sects who do not mark ‘times and seasons’ excepted) this week is very important indeed.

Whatever our views about the global shutdown (mine are here) anything that can keep up the spirits of our older relatives and friends, and help them find meaning in their even-more restricted life, is to be encouraged. So let’s talk about DIY celebrations at home. Starting with Palm Sunday, 5th or 12th April.

In the Beginning was the Word, so I’ll start with the texts. For Roman Catholics, we’re in Liturgical Year A this year (until Advent, the period before Christmas) so as these I know for certain, these are the ones I’ll give:

Matthew 21:1-11. The Entry into Jerusalem. Jesus rides humbly into Jerusalem on a donkey and the people shout with joy and strew palms in his path in welcome.

The traditional celebration includes waving palms which are usually handed out at church. In posh churches, already made into wee crosses. In cheap and cheerful churches, like the ones I grew up attending, we made our own. If you still have palms hanging about from last year (Catholics at least don’t tend to bin them till they fall apart so look at the back of shelves and drawers) wave them while you’re watching a procession online – or do your own procession about the living-room or garden and wave them then.

Then, if you need or want to, you can make them into crosses (kids usually do this during the sermon). Palms are about a fingerswidth wide and if you get a hold of one, make sure it isn’t several (slide your fingernail, carefully, along the side to separate them) and when you’re sure you’ve only got one, go ahead.

If you don’t have a palm or another length of some similar (non-toxic) plant, you can use a sheet of paper. I’m using a sheet of A4 paper (the size of those big refill writing pads) so if your size is smaller, watch the width of the smaller sections so they’re about a thumbnail to start – the width halves as you fold.

Here’s how to make a wee Palm Sunday cross (in 25 easy-peasy steps). First, some pictures so you can see how simple it is:

  1. Fold the A4 sheet in half, lengthwise (longways), so you have 2 long narrow rectangles.
  2. Fold it again, without opening it up. Now you have 4 long even narrower rectangles.
  3. Fold it again, without opening it up. Now you have 8 long, even more narrower rectangles!
  4. Push your fingernail, flat, along all the edges, to get them to lie flat.
  5. Now open it all up. You have made 7 foldlines. Number them 1-7 in your head.
  6. If you have scissors, cut along every second of the 7 foldlines you’ve made (so that’s only 2, 4 and 6).
  7. If you don’t have scissors, or you prefer and are careful, place a fingernail at the top of one side of the central foldline and pull very gently but firmly on the other side until the paper splits in two – then do that for all the central foldlines as you divide the A4 paper into narrower sections.
  8. Now you should have 4 narrow strips, each divided by a foldline.
  9. Take one and, keeping it folded, push your fingernail along it again.
  10. Now, still folded, fold it in half but crosswise (transverse) so it’s now half the length it was.
  11. Open it up again.
  12. Fold the bottom edge to the middle fold you’ve just made. (In the picture, I’m working with the one with holes in.)
  13. Open it up again.
  14. Fold the bottom edge to the lower fold you’ve just made.
  15. Open it up again.
  16. Now fold it lengthwise, again. (See picture.) Now you have a very skinny but strong rectangle, with a middle and a lower fold. This is called the paper palm. Make sure the side with the lengthwise fold is on the right and the open side is on the left.
  17. Now, still folded lengthwise into the skinny rectangle, fold the lower fold to the middle fold.
  18. You’ve just made the important fold! So it’s important that you don’t open it up again.
  19. Now the important fold is at the top and what was the middle fold is now lying over what was the lower fold – this is now called the cross fold.
  20. Hold the cross fold firmly together and turn the lower half (cos it is actually half) of the paper palm to the right with a 45 degree angle (so what was the left edge is now running along the cross fold). This is now called the right arm.
  21. Fold the end of the right arm back to the centre of the upright arm.
  22. Still folded, do that again. (I got that wrong before, the proportions should be okay now)
  23. Open that fold up and use it so that the left arm is now twice as long as the right arm.
  24. Reverse the fold in the middle of the left arm and just tuck it in so that the arms are now the same length. You now have a perfectly respectable paper palm cross to wave (especially if you hold it in the middle).
  25. If you want it stronger, there are various options:
  • Staple it.
  • Sellotape it
  • Use an elastic band – or two to make a Celtic cross
  • Use that wee wiry thing off the bread.

(speaking of which, you now deserve a hot cross bun!)

Watch this space for more DIY Easter!


Photos © Alan McManus





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