The palm tree and palm leaves referred to in the Bible are the date palm. Solomon and Jeremiah used the palm tree to symbolize straight stature, and they referred to the City of Jericho as "the City of Palm Trees." The palm tree was considered in Biblical times as a princely tree and was used as a symbol of victory and well-being and also as temple decoration. Palm trees were used in the carved decorations of the temple, usually associated with Cherubims, lions, and open flowers. The palm tree was considered holy in Babylon and later was sacred to the Greek god Apollo. The palm found another meaning; The oasis of the desert was a welcome stop for both camel and traveler who first sighted the waving palm tops in the distance. Psalms provided food and shade; the oasis, water. So palm branches become the symbol of welcome, public homage, and journey's end. Among, both the Romans and the Jews the palm was carried in joyful or triumphant processions. In 293 B.C. victorious Roman soldiers bore palm branches when parading in Rome; and the palm was given as a victory emblem at public games. Palm branches were the conventional symbol of public approval and welcome by eastern people to conquering heroes, and were strewn and carried in triumphal processions. Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem when the people strew palm branches in His path and greeted Him with Hosannas (John 12: 12-13), became a liturgical function on Palm Sunday in the 4th century. But already the palm was connected with martyrdom (Apoc 7.9) and was used to decorate grave markers and tombs in the catacombs as a sign of the triumphant death of the martyr. On mosaics and on sarcophagi it usually stands for paradise, and Christ is frequently portrayed amid palms in heaven. So also in early church art, the Lamb of God and the Apostles are depicted amid palms. The palm tree was embossed on ancient Hebrew coins, and the Romans celebrated the conquest of Judea by issuing a new coinage, still retaining the palm tree, but with an added inscription announcing the victory. Since the early days of the Christian Church, the palm blessed at Mass on Palm Sunday is carried home by the faithful as a symbol of Christ's presence among them. Before Ash Wednesday the blessed palm is burned, and its residue is used in the distribution of ashes as a symbol of penance during Lent.
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