Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Palm Sunday, Elche, 2023

Posted on by royvickery |

Elche, a city in the Alicante Province of Spain, has been long famous for its date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) orchards, which are said to contain over 200,000 trees.   It is also well known for its Palm Sunday processions. In 2023 these were held on 2 April, when huge crowds, with most people carrying palms, assembled for the main procession which started at 11 a.m., aiming to reach the Basilica de Santa Maria at 12 noon.

Although most of the participants carried simple palm leaves, some carried elaborate ornaments made from the leaves.  The palms carried are known as ‘white palms’, being characteristically light coloured.  According to an informant this colour was achieved by the palm trees being covered in [presumably black] plastic, so that the leaves become pale yellow.*  But other sources state that the leaves are treated after harvesting to give them their colour.

The more elaborate ornaments, such as that above, are entered in a competition the previous weekend.

People also wore small decorations made from fragments of palm leaves in their lapels or pinned to their clothing.

At the conclusion of the ceremony in the Basilica, the palm decorations on the float of Christ’s donkey were removed and given to the many people who wanted them to take away.

Other processions, not all directly related to Palm Sunday, were held later in the day.

Although a huge number of palms are carried in the main Palm Sunday procession, comparatively few seem to be displayed on balconies after the event, so that Elche homes appear to be no more abundantly decorated than those elsewhere in Spain.

*This seems to have been confirmed on 8 April 2023 by an Englishman who had just returned from Alicante where he had seen the Palm Sunday parade: ‘they make them albino by covering them’.

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