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Outdoors: Palm Sunday

This weekend, in Christian churches around the world, from tiny missions to magnificent cathedrals, congregations will be celebrating Palm Sunday, singing "hosanna" and waving palms.

Those glorious cathedrals have countless masterpieces: paintings, frescos and stained glass windows, many depicting palm branches.

In ancient times, palm branches were symbolic in many cultures.

Ancient Egyptian believed palms represented eternal life.  

In Greece, palms were the symbol of victory, and Greeks awarded palm branches to victors of athletic events.

Assyrians believed palms were sacred trees connecting heaven and earth.

During the time of the Roman Empire, people lined the streets and waved palms when processions of victorious soldiers or rulers entered a city.

In Islamic cultures, palms symbolized hospitality, which makes sense because palm trees grow around an oasis.

But they don’t grow here. It’s just too cold.  

Actually, palms are more closely related to grass than the native tree species that survive our winters.

If you look at the leaves of a palm, you will see that the veins are parallel like the veins of grass.

Instead of having annual rings, the trunks of palm have sort of pithy core like a corn stalk so the sap does not travel under the bark, but rather, in randomly scattered vascular bundles.

We can import palm branches from Florida, Texas and Mexico, but I’m told that in Poland and other chilly Slavic countries lacking palm trees, people wave pussy willows on Palm Sunday, which, in my opinion, is a splendid way to represent new life and joy.

"Outdoors with Coggin Heeringa" can be heard every Wednesday on Classical IPR.