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7 things you didn't know about Palm Sunday

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
April 11, 2014 at midnight
Updated April 10, 2014 at 11:11 p.m.

Christian pilgrims hold palm fronds during the traditional Palm Sunday procession on the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem's old city March 24, 2013. Christians from around the world are commemorating Palm Sunday in Jerusalem, singing hymns and bearing palm fronds as they celebrate Jesus Christ's triumphant entry into the holy city more than 2,000 years ago.

Christianity's most important holiday of the year is a week away.

And while Easter bunnies and chocolate eggs will certainly make an appearance by the millions, the holiday for Christians, both Protestant and Catholics, first commemorates the resurrection of Jesus.

This year, Orthodox Christians will also celebrate Easter on April 20, an unusual overlap that rarely occurs because the Eastern and Western Christians use different calendars to calculate the holidays.

The Holy Week commences with Palm Sunday. Here are seven things you didn't know about Palm Sunday and the beloved story of Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey five days before his crucifixion nearly 2,000 years ago.

1. Palm Sunday is the sixth Sunday in Lent and marks the beginning of Holy Week in Christianity worldwide.

2. Palm Sunday is a movable feast and is celebrated the week before Easter.

3. Palm Sunday commemorates the king-like entry of Jesus riding on a donkey into Jerusalem, where he was greeted by roaring crowds waving palm branches and claiming him as the messiah.

4. The entry of Jesus on a donkey was retold in all four synoptic gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

5. In Jesus' time, palms were a national symbol of independence linked to the restoration of the holy Hebrew temple in Jerusalem. Palms, or phoenix dactylifera, were referred to as the phoenix tree because of their leaf shape and ability to grow new leaves after being burnt. Early Christians used the phoenix plant and bird to represent resurrection and rising from the dead.

6. Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem on a donkey signified that he was coming in peace.

7. To calculate when Palm Sunday, Holy Week holidays and Easter Sunday will be celebrated, Western Christians use the Gregorian calendar while Eastern churches use the Julian calendar. The dates are based on a lunar calendar similar to the Hebrew calendar, which is why the dates move each year.

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