Blessing of the PalmsIn Christian countries, Palm Sunday, the last Sunday of Lent before Easter, commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem where he arrived to celebrate Passover with his disciples before his crucifixion.
Palm Sunday in a Country With No PalmsIn Poland, Palm Sunday is known as Niedziela Palmowa which marks the beginning of Holy Week known as Kwietna or Wierzbna. People around the world bring palms to church to be blessed. But palm trees are not indigenous to Poland so, instead, the faithful bring greenery found in the fields. Others bring posies made of pussy willows, the first buds to appear in Poland, and a plant considered to love life because it grows in the worst conditions.
And in other regions of Poland, Easter palms, known as Palma Wielkanocna or Palemka Wielkanocna or palemki (little palms), are made of branches of arborvitae, spruce, boxwood, and yew. Since flowers are not yet in bloom, artificial ones made from tissue and crepe paper are fastened to the branch. Sometimes, flowers that have been dried from the previous summer are attached and colorful ribbons festoon the "palms" that can reach the length of your elbow or as high as a 12-story building!
Palm CompetitionsEvery year, palm competitions take place throughout Poland. Two notable ones are held in Łyse in the Kurpie region, and in the village of Lipnica Murowana, southwest of Krakòw.
The village of Łyse holds a contest for the tallest and most beautiful palm. People from all over the region work hard for the forty days of Lent to make their entries.
The palms in Lipnica Murowana are so tall, they cannot be carried upright and are transported to the main square or church yard by several men who hoist them up so they stand on end.
In Wilno (now in Lithuania), palma take the form of slender bouquet sticks known as wałki in varying heights. They are decorated with dried flowers, and spikes of grasses and mosses.
The contests are very competitive with specific rules -- no nails or other metal elements can be used in making the palms, only wood, willow, reeds, green branches and paper flowers are allowed. Wires, ropes and lines from synthetic materials are also forbidden. In order to qualify in the contest, the palm has to stand upright without breaking, it has to be raised with no help from machines (just men in trees guiding it and others on the ground with special long pushing forks), and the creator of the palma must be able encircle its girth with his hands.
Watch this video of palm-making in Łyse.