What should you do with old Easter palms?

Palms decorated for Easter

I was tooling around the internet trying to figure out what to do with old palms from Palm Sundays past.  My mother always kept them in vases, so for years there were scads of shriveled up palms around the house.  All I could find online were forums of answers from people who explained what they did with their palms – burn them and scatter in the garden, bury them, return to the church a week before Ash Wednesday.

I could find no official Catholic answer.  While it was only 20 minutes until the next Catholic mass in town where I could ask my question to a real priest, it involved actually going to mass, which I haven’t done in a few years for various reasons and not thrilled about doing today.

Entry into Jerusalem by Pedro Orrente

Still searching, I came upon the Wikipedia page of Palm Sunday with customs from different countries.  Looking down the list I came across Finland, which makes up one-half of me (unless we are going to get technical and say I am 100% American).  This is what it says:

In Finland, it is popular for children to dress up as Easter witches and go door to door in neighborhoods for coins and candy. It is an old Karelian custom called Virpominen.

I learned from Lassen that in the olden days villagers would scare off witches in the springtime with bonfires.  As time went on, the witches seemed less scary and children started dressing like them on Palm Sunday.  They would decorate blessed willow twigs then go out and tap neighbors and friends with them as a blessing.  In return they would receive chocolate eggs, candy or money.  This is called “virpominen”  and was done in the Western part of the country, where our people are from.  It is basically a wish for good luck, good health, prosperity, love, and all good things.

Here from An Arctic Rainbow of Colour is an Easter Witch rhyme, you can recite as you visit your loved ones, offer your most bountiful blessings, and get a treat:

Virvon, Varvon! (These words indicate the Witch is waving their willow switch!)
Tuoreeks, Terveeks (Fresh, Healthy -)
Tulevaks, Vuodeks! (- Forthcoming Year!)
Vitsa sulle! (Twig for you!)
Palkka mulle? (Reward for me?)

Easter Witches in Finland by Annelis/WikiCommons

Visit the Arctic Rainbow to see photos of some Easter witches that came to her door and learn more about a Brit living in Finland.

So what should you do with old palms?  I still don’t know, but I’ll call up the church tomorrow and post the answer.

April 1, 2012

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  • Answer to the original question of What should you do with old Easter palms: I called up the local Roman Catholic church and they advised old palms should be buried or burned.

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