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Dimanche de Rameaux: Celebrating Palm Sunday in France

Celebrating Palm Sunday in France

Dimanche de Rameaux, or Palm Sunday in France, is a major Christian holiday with many fascinating traditions. In this article, you’ll learn about the story behind Palm Sunday, France’s most common celebrations, and some useful vocabulary.

Let’s get started!

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1. What is Palm Sunday?

On Palm Sunday, exactly one week before Easter (Pâques), Christians celebrate Jesus’ entrée, or “entrance,” into Jerusalem. According to the Bible, people welcomed his arrival by throwing palm branches on the ground he traveled, hence this holiday’s name. Palm Sunday is also the first day of Semaine Sainte, or “Holy Week.”

In France, Palm Sunday is a day strongly associated with plants and other springtime elements, as is true in some other cultures as well. We’ll go more into this later.

2. When is Palm Sunday in France?

A Calendar

The date of Palm Sunday varies each year, along with the dates of Lent and Easter. For your convenience, here’s a list of this holiday’s date for the next ten years:

  • 2020: April 5
  • 2021: March 28
  • 2022: April 10
  • 2023: April 2
  • 2024: March 24
  • 2025: April 13
  • 2026: March 29
  • 2027: March 21
  • 2028: April 9
  • 2029: March 25

3. Palm Sunday Traditions in France

A Man Carrying a Small Bible

Many French Palm Sunday traditions take place throughout the country, and they vary slightly based on region. For example, there are actually two different names for Palm Sunday. In northern France, it’s called Dimanche de Rameaux (“Sunday of Branches”); in southern France, it’s Dimanche de Palmes (“Sunday of Palms”). This is because the climate and weather of northern France are better suited for the growth of box-trees, while southern France has a climate more suited for palms. Some places in France also use olive branches.

On Palm Sunday, French believers go to the church to have their box-tree or palm branches blessed. They then take these branches home to decorate the front door, because some believe this grants God’s protection for the coming year. Some people also use these blessed branches as decorations for loved ones’ graves.

Another common Palm Sunday tradition is the Mass procession. This is when believers gather at one church to have the branches blessed and then proceed together toward a second church (or, if necessary, any other location deemed proper by the church).

4. Ash Wednesday

Each year, the branches that people took home on Palm Sunday are brought back to the church on Ash Wednesday the following year. There, the branches are burned, and the ashes are used to make a cross on the foreheads of believers. This is thought to give them God’s blessing.

5. Essential Palm Sunday Vocabulary

A Photo of Jerusalem

Ready to review some of the vocabulary words from this lesson? Here’s a list of the most important words and phrases for Palm Sunday!

  • Dimanche — “Sunday”
  • Calendrier — “Calendar”
  • Pâques — “Easter”
  • Précéder — “Precede”
  • Entrée — “Entrance”
  • Semaine sainte — “Holy Week”
  • Chrétien — “Christian”
  • Jésus — “Jesus”
  • Jérusalem — “Jerusalem”
  • Mort — “Death”
  • Croix — “Cross”

To hear the pronunciation of each word, and to read them alongside relevant images, be sure to check out our French Palm Sunday vocabulary list!

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed learning about Palm Sunday in France with us, and that you took away some valuable cultural information.

Do you celebrate Palm Sunday in your country? If so, do traditions vary from those in France or are they pretty much the same? We look forward to hearing from you in the comments!

If you’re fascinated with French culture and can’t get enough, we recommend that you check out the following pages on FrenchPod101.com:

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