Palm Sunday is a huge deal in Bolivia. My Palm Sunday celebration was a marathon that started on Friday when Jesus riding a ‘donkey’ paraded through the Kinder.
Then on Saturday at my 5pm youth group, we were reminded that we had to decorate the church for Palm Sunday. AND we had to bring all the materials to do so. Well, in classic Bolivian style, we had nothing but we started looking. For starters we needed 10 huge palm fronds from a palm tree called Motacu.
Luckily, one of the girls showed up and said that her family had a Motacu and had just cut a bunch of fronds so we all went over to her house to see how many we could use. There were some mutterings about using a taxi or a motorcycle but Sister Inez said, “No, you can’t drag them, you have to carry them!” Not knowing what exactly we were getting into, I went happily to her house with the five other girls from our group. But when we arrived I was a little shocked, the palms were easily 14 feet long and not light. Plus, we needed to carry 10 of them and we were now 6 blocks away from the church. We decided quickly we had to carry them between two people to avoid dragging and Celia says, “Ok well each pair has to take three then.” Another girl and I attempt to pick up three but I can’t and drop them all. So, we decide to take two. I’ve got the leafy side and so I’m completely buried in palm, not able to see anything but my feet, as we walk the six blocks to the church. I had many doubts along the way but amazingly we arrived as did the other two teams. When we went back for the second round, a few more people showed up including two guys so the work was much lighter.
We spent the next two hours tying the palms up and I finally got back to our house exhausted about 8pm. But no rest for the weary, Sunday morning I had to be up at 6:30am to cook my contribution for lunch and be ready to march at 7:30 as we paraded to a local high school for the annual World Youth Day celebration. This is a full-day event with a very long mass, dancing, break-out sessions and unending singing. After helping with cleanup, we finally starting walking home at 4:30pm. Thankfully, when I got home my wonderful husband was already cooking dinner, so I rested until 6pm when we had dinner with the other volunteers. Then at 7pm I headed to church for evening mass. My youth group was also in charge of the evening mass for Palm Sunday and I had volunteered to read the first reading. This was really exciting for me since it’s the first time I’ve done a reading in Bolivia! I really tried hard on my accent so that people would understand me and afterwards Sister Inez said it sounded good. (Positive praise is so rare from the Sisters, especially Sister Inez so I just want you to appreciate how amazing I felt). In addition, after going to two 2-hour masses in one day, I felt my spot in heaven was assured and it was nice to see everyone enjoying all our hard work decorating. The finished product looked great but it did seem a bit overboard, to me anyway.
And since it’s a celebration, I also splurged for the biggest palm I could find from the vendors outside the church. This one set me back 5 bolivianos. The herbs in it, once blessed, are supposed to ward off bad spirits.
Blessed Holy Week to you all, stay tuned for more stories.