This was definitely the most interesting Palm Sunday I’ve ever celebrated. We left the house a little after 8am to make our way to a part of the city where there was to be a procession to the church. I knew that we’d be buying special palm fronds and that other little things made out of palm fronds would be for sale on our way to the procession. I also knew that during the procession there’d probably be music and we’d follow a statue of Jesus to the church. But it was much more beautiful than I imagined.
As we walked toward the church I could see that there were large palm fronds set up in front of the church. There were vendors out in front with baskets of beautifully decorated palm fronds. We stopped to purchase some palm fronds to carry during the procession. Some had been bent into crosses and others curved to look like flowers. Many were adorned with colorful flowers or decorations. A few of the fronds actually had the actual flower-like parts of the palm tree tied onto the frond. For some reason the smell of them reminds me of anise. I selected a palm frond with a several curved leaves and a pink flower in the middle.
After purchasing our fronds we continued up the steep street that led to the start of the procession. Along the way we stopped off at another vendor. This time I purchased two crosses that had been constructed out of the individual leaves. Each cost only 25¢ but I left her with a dollar. We got close to the area where the procession was to begin and found a place to sit. Blanca said we were lucky to find a place to rest until the start of the procession. Not too far up the street was a crowd of people. I could see a statue of Jesus carrying a palm frond surrounded by people.
We happened to sit next to another vendor. There were lots of people out today selling their crafts. I looked through her metal tub at the various things she made out of the palm fronds. I selected a large cross to add to my collection. It was only 25¢ but I gave her a dollar and told her to keep the change. I brought several $1 bills with me for the purpose of buying these crafts and had decided not to ask people to make change for me. Sometimes it’s hard for people selling things on the street to make change and I don’t like to them to waste the change they have on me. A couple minutes later the woman I’d bought the large cross from came over and gave me something special she’d made. It was a little bouquet made from the flower-like part of the palm tree. I was very touched and thanked her for the gift.
As I was looking through the crowd I saw a couple girls I know from San Francisco. I went over to talk with them for while. I am always very excited to see people I know from San Francisco, especially people from the youth group. We chatted for a while about Palm Sunday and Easter. We also talked about getting together sometime. Yesterday I ran into the leader of the youth group and gave him my cell phone number so we could talk about me visiting the group soon. I’m really hoping I can get to San Francisco after Easter to visit the youth group. The main barrier is getting there. I cannot walk by myself there so someone would have to come walk with me or, if Kathy had the time, I’d have to be driven there. But, Primero Dios (God willing), we will make it happen.
Around 9:15 we saw everyone moving in a little closer up the street and someone was waving the girls toward them so we said goodbye. I returned to stand with Blanca, Cecilia, Idalia, and Balmore. Soon a child came riding up the street on a donkey and someone began setting off cohetes (noisemakers). We heard someone talking over the loud speaker and everyone raised their palm fronds and other palm decorations into the air. The priest walked down the center of the crowd and flung holy water into the air toward the palm fronds to bless them. We moved in closer so our palm fronds could be blessed as well. Blessing things with water, whether it be churches, people, or palm fronds, is always exciting for me. I think it’s because I didn’t grow up in a church where things were blessed with water so often.
After that the procession began. The altar boys, readers, and priests led the way. We stood and watched as people passed us singing and carrying their palm fronds. The statue of Jesus being carried on a large platform got closer and closer. As I watched him go by I felt like I was actually there in Jerusalem watching Jesus arrive. There was definitely something incredible about watching the statue of Jesus pass by and seeing nearly 200 people fill the street to process with him to the church. We were surrounded by so much love and happiness I felt I might burst.
The entire procession took a little over a half hour which is shorter than most processions. There was singing almost the whole time. Even though I didn’t the words to the songs I hummed along and watched the people around me. At various points during the procession someone spoke over the loud speaker and everyone would raise their palm fronds into the air. The crowd slowed down as we approached the church so everyone could filter inside. Many people that hadn’t joined the procession were already inside the church. Blanca and Balmore went to the mass since they go home on Sunday nights. But since we were toward the back of the procession there was virtually no room left in the church so Cecilia and I opted to go to our normal 5:00pm mass. I was a little disappointed we didn’t get to go to the first mass but we probably wouldn’t have been able to see much. However, next week for Easter we’re all going to the first mass.
Approaching the church
Basket of palm frond crafts for sale
So many choices
Walking up to the start of the procession
We found a place to sit
My first couple of purchases
More things for sale
A nearby house decorated for the procession
Balmore with his palm fronds
There goes a donkey!
Setting off cohetes
He's got more
I thought this was a neat cross
Waiting for the procession to start
Lots of people
With lots of palm fronds
Even more palm crafts
Raise up your palms
Here comes the priest
Blessing the palm fronds
Let the procession begin!
The front of the group
I can see Jesus!
A beautiful statue
It took several people to carry it
Lots of singing and smiles
Here we go
There were a ton of people
Ceci and Idalia
Idalia and Blanca
Getting to the church
Here we are
A joyful day
It was a wonderful procession
All my palm crafts
The flower-like part from the palm tree
The first one I bought
Decorated with real pink flowers
Idalia went to buy things at the market while Cecilia and I walked back to the house. I put all my palm fronds into a glass and set the glass in my room. Then I went out to the market to see what was going on. Sunday is always market day here and I love wandering around. I inevitably see people I know and I love looking at all the things people are selling. At one point I saw a woman who is a member of the Directiva in San Lorenzo and stopped to talk to her. Then Cecilia came by and we all chatted for while. Then we parted ways looking for our various goods.
Upon seeing a piece of fruit I did not recognize I decided that today was the day I would buy several pieces of fruit that I haven’t ever eaten or haven’t eaten many times. I selected six different pieces of fruit that I didn’t know very well plus an apricot. All of it was inexpensive and I left excited to try my fruit. When I got home I asked Alejandro and Cecilia the names of the fruit in Spanish and I wrote them down. A few of them I recognized and wrote down the name of the fruit in English. But a couple I had to look up on the internet.
This is what I ended up buying:
Albaricoque – Apricot
Lichi – Lychee
Maracuyá – Passion fruit
Granadilla – Passion fruit
Carambola – Star fruit
Guayaba – Guava
I ate the apricot right away. Obviously, I’ve eaten apricots before but I’ve never eaten them here. It smelled delicious and tasted just as good. I was excited when I found out what one of the fruits was that I’d bought. It was lychee!! I first had lychee when a friend of my husband served it to us for a dinner he made. It was a special Malaysian dinner because he’s originally from Malaysia. I fell in love with the fruit but I’ve never seen it sold fresh in the States; it’s always in cans. So this was a treat for me. The women were also excited to see it because it’s not always easy to find here. In fact, I went out later with them to show them where I’d bought the fruit because Freddy really likes it.
The second fruit I tried was the passion fruit. I’ve had passion fruit juice before but never fresh. Apparently, I’d bought two passion fruits, or at least what we called passion fruit. One of the fruits in Spanish is Maracuyá and the other is Granadilla. But when I looked up the words in English both mean passion fruit. One is black/green on the inside and the other is orange with little black seeds. The black/green one was delicious but it wasn’t quite ready so it was a little sour still. But I ate it anyway.
I did a little research about the second passion fruit, the one with orange in the middle. Normally it’s used to make juice or for cooking but isn’t eaten straight because it’s a little sour. So I looked up a juice recipe and made myself a glass of fresh passion fruit juice. It was a simple recipe. You scoop out the seeds of the juice and put them into a cup. Then you add some water; I added a little more than 1 cup. Then you add a tablespoon or more of sugar. Mix it all together and let it sit for a while. Then strain out the seeds making sure to squish them to get all the pulp and juice out of them. Pour into a cup and enjoy! It was absolutely delicious and a quick snack. Pretty healthy as well. Fresh passion fruit is high in beta carotene, potassium, fiber, and vitamin C.
I have yet to eat the star fruit, guava, and sapote. I’ve had star fruit before in the US and fresh guava here but I haven’t ever eaten sapote. I’ve looked it up on the internet and there doesn’t seem to be a word for it in English. It also seems that the word “sapote” is incorporated into the common names of several unrelated fruit-bearing plants native to Mexico, Central America and northern parts of South America (thank you again, Wikipedia). From looking at pictures online I think it would be considered a sapodilla. I’m excited to eat it to find out what it tastes like.
Church tonight went well. The service wasn’t longer than the usual 1 hour and 15 minutes which was surprising to me because the morning service was almost 2 hours long. Of course, the homily was all about Palm Sunday, Holy week, and Easter. I’m getting excited to see all that goes on during Holy Week. I love the processions and getting to know the different traditions of the Salvadoran culture. It has been another wonderful day.
The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!” John 12:12-13
My fruit collection
Maracuyá - Passion fruit
My special passion fruit juice