Palm Sunday is not one of the ‘gastronomic’ holidays in the religious calendar. Still, it’s the beginning of the Easter week celebrated by Christians around the world and often warrants a ‘special’ Sunday dinner.
In Great Britain, traditional foods served on Palm Sunday include fig pudding because Jesus is said to have eaten figs on his entry into the city of Jerusalem. In Wales, the day is known as Sul y Blodau or Flowering Sunday because of the association with the flowering of the fig tree. Making split pea soup is another tradition still observed in Northern England and Scotland, derived from the ancient practice of wearing a hard pea in the shoe as penance during Lent.
In other areas of the UK, Pax Cakes – along with best wishes for peace and brotherhood – are given out to congregations after Palm Sunday services in a custom said to date back to the 1500’s.
In the Greek tradition, Lenten fast is broken with a fish dinner on Palm Sunday featuring bakaliaros or salt cod. In some parts of Italy, homemade fettuccini pasta topped with tomato sauce, bread crumbs and chopped nuts is the customary Palm Sunday dish.
More modern interpretations of appropriate foods to be eaten on Palm Sunday include hearts of palm featured in salads or side dishes to observe the day. In some areas of the world, dates are eaten, as the palms spread before Christ were those of the date tree. Others eat hummus and simple breads, to represent the foods of the Holy Land, along with olives and citrus.
In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, bay leaves are handed out to the faithful. These are used in cooking throughout the year, bringing the blessings of this holiday to foods well beyond the holiday. Throughout the Christian world, each community, each family have their own traditions for Palm Sunday, ranging from the most humble and simple, to the elaborate.
No matter how it’s celebrated, Palm Sunday is a glorious day that should be celebrated with humility and simple fare that inspire faith, hope and charity. The key to proper celebration of this day is to spend quality time with family and friends.