Worshippers in many Christian churches marked the beginning of Holy Week on Sunday by waving palm branches to celebrate the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
Holy Week is traditionally a week of somber reflections on the events preceding Jesus’ death on the cross. It leads up to the holiest day on the Christian calendar, Easter, and includes Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
On Palm Sunday, Christians wave palm branches as a way to re-enact the biblical account of crowds greeting Jesus by waving the branches and covering his path into the city with them. Palm Sunday is also known as Passion Sunday.
The joyful tone of Palm Sunday gives way to solemnity as Christians approach Maundy Thursday, the day that marks Jesus’ arrest, and Good Friday, the day when Christ’s followers observe the crucifixion. Holy Saturday commemorates the day Jesus rested in the tomb.
Easter Sunday celebrates the day Jesus rose from the dead. It symbolizes forgiveness and rebirth and is viewed as a victory over sin, death and all of the destructive forces in people’s lives.
Christians in most Western traditions — Anglican, Catholic, Protestant and others — will celebrate Easter on March 31. For Eastern rite Christians, including Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern rite churches affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, Easter will be observed this year on May 5.
The date for Orthodox Easter, or Pascha, is calculated using the Julian calendar. It always follows the Jewish Passover, which begins at sunset today, and never falls before April 3.