In 2017 Palm Sunday for Christians in both the Eastern Orthodox and the western traditions fell on the same day, 9 April. It was planned to visit the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Notting Hill, and the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Divine Wisdom, in Bayswater. However, on the way a young woman was spotted at Oxford Street tube station carrying a Palm Sunday decoration composed on dyed grass flowerheads and dried Helichrysum flowers. She explained that this was a Ukrainian tradition.
On arriving at the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral at about 10 a.m. there was little evidence of ‘palms’, but two containers near the front of the church contained freshly-leaved willow (Salix) twigs, and some of these, evidently brought by members of the congregation, were scattered at random around the church.
About an hour later, at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral, ‘palm’ was even less in evidence, but a few elderly women had brought along small twigs of olive (Olea europaea). The major icons on the iconostasis were decorated with dried palm fronds.
Finally a visit was paid to St Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church, in Kensington. Here, at about 1 p.m., the congregation were leaving the church, and ornaments made from palm fronds were abundant. It seemed as if people were provided with palm and then encouraged to weave, plait, or twist, it to make whatever ornament pleased them. Some of the older men wore simple palm crosses, similar to those used in western churches, but many other people had produced fan-like ornaments, finger rings, and more elaborate crosses.