Rejoice in the Lord!

What makes you happy? Can you think of something that always makes you smile? A friend? A favorite thing you do? A joke? Did you know God wants us to be joyful, to be happy?

Today is Palm Sunday, a day full of joy and happiness. When we hear the Gospel reading, we hear how the people were so joyful when they saw Jesus coming into Jerusalem. They shouted and waved branches. They were so happy that their King, Jesus, was coming to the royal city!

In today’s epistle reading, we hear words that tell us, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, Rejoice…The Lord is near.” God wants us to rejoice today…and every day! When we think about how God is with us, we have a reason to rejoice, to be full of happiness. When we think about what God has done for us, we have a reason to rejoice, to be full of happiness.

Palm Sunday is a beautiful day, and we can celebrate how God is the real King! But can you try to keep those special words in your heart all the time (not just today)? “Rejoice in the Lord always!” Be full of joy because God is with us!

Palm Sunday Around the World

Do you have palm trees in your backyard? Probably not, but you might still receive a beautiful palm cross after church today. Most of the palms in America have been shipped in from Florida. But did you know that Orthodox Christians in some countries celebrate this day without palms? In some places, palms are too hard to find. Let’s look at how people around the world celebrate the Sunday before Easter!

In the Middle East, like Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria, Orthodox faithful carry branches from olive trees and palm trees. The priest blesses everybody with an olive branch dipped in holy water.

In Russia and the Ukraine, the climate is too cold for palm trees to grow. Instead, Orthodox Christians receive pussy willow branches to remember the branches that Jesus’ followers laid down on the ground. They use pussy willows in Albania too!

In Romania, faithful Christians call this day Flowers Sunday (Florii). Instead of palms, people bring spring flowers from their gardens, and after church, everybody brings home bouquets of flowers and basil.

Bulgarians also celebrate this day with flowers. If you have a flower-related name, like Lilia or Violeta, you would celebrate today as your nameday.

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