The following comes from a March 16 Catholic News Agency article by Adelaide Mena:
With Palm Sunday right around the corner, Catholics across the globe will soon be handed leaves as they walk into church. Some might fold them into elaborate little crosses. Kids will poke each other with them. But it’s safe to say most won’t know where they came from.
The journey from tree to church begins with the harvesters around the world who cut and prepare the leaves for their role in worship. The work needed to provide palms for Palm Sunday is so immense that it actually constitutes a full-time year-round job for some harvesters.
Thomas Sowell is one such palm harvester from Florida who has been helping to supply parishes with fresh palm leaves for more than five decades.
Sowell began harvesting wild palm leaves from trees as a child to earn extra money in the springtime. Over the past several decades, he has grown his business into a palm supplier that ships the leafy branches to all 50 states and Canada.
Despite the growth in his business, Sowell says he tries to maintain his focus on the purpose behind it all.
“We try to do the best job that we can,” he told CNA. “Every bag that we send out to churches, every individual bag has been examined, cleaned – we go to extreme measures to make sure that everything we do for these churches is done in the honor of Jesus Christ.”
While there are more than 2,600 different species of palm that grow across the world, palm plants cannot survive outside of tropical and subtropical climates. Historically, parishes that could not source palm locally would instead substitute branches of another local tree such as olive or willow, although modern churches also have the option of sourcing palm fronds from other regions of the world.
Many of these parishes contact church goods suppliers such as Peter Munley of Falls Church, Virginia, who helps provide parishes year-round with supplies like candles and sacramental wine, along with palms for Holy Week.
Munley told CNA that in preparation for Palm Sunday, he works to deliver palms from their source to different parishes that place orders around the country. In addition to Florida, palms are sourced from Texas, California and elsewhere in the Southern United States, he said.
In South America and Italy we use olive branches. Then you place a little branch on the crucifix above your bed. This sacramental protects your home from evil spirits.
No, this sacramental is superstition. Olive branches can’t protect you from anything, except maybe … oh I don’t know … an olive thief?
I went to a Ukrainian Catholic church on Palm Sunday one time, and they used pussy-willows.