Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday and ends with Easter. It is a very important moment for the Christian Catholic Church and in my beautiful Sorrento Coast we have many traditions and events. But this year in 2020 we are staying home. Our churches are closed. There will be no mass, no processions, no celebrations in the streets. This is the most appropriate moment, therefore, to remain faithful and to keep our traditions alive. That’s why I decided to share with you one of the most important traditions of Easter in my region!
At the start of the Holy Week, on Palm Sunday, is the tradition of blessing and exchanging olive branches sometimes decorated with colored ribbons and little cheeses. This is a way to remember and evoke Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem.
But on the Sorrento Coast an old habit still survives for many, at the time of the blessing of the palms, to offer something unique – colorful and delightful branches made entirely of sugar-coated almonds. There is, of course, a legend behind this custom. In 1558, on Palm Sunday, people were in church awaiting the blessing when word came warning of a Turkish ship about to siege the town. They braced for the worst until a local fisherman finally relayed news of the Turkish’s ship wreckage. Only one Saracen woman survived the wreckage and was saved by the fisherman. The woman wanted to express her gratitude and thus offered sugar-coated almonds to everyone. Her simple gesture of gratitude and peace gave rise to the tradition of palms made of sugar-coated almonds and has been handed down from generation to generation ever since.
Since childhood every Palm Sunday at the time of blessing I have looked forward to my sugar-coated almonds palm. It was usually made by my grandmother or by my auntie. I miss them this year just as I am missing many other ordinary things. The palms are symbols of LOVE, AFFECTION, and PEACE. The message they convey is still alive in my heart and memories and I offer it here to you…