“Jeremiah, what seest thou? ...
I see a rod of an almond tree”
For my counsels are not as your counsels, neither are your ways as my ways, says the LORD.
But as the heaven is far from the earth,
so is my way far from your ways, and your thoughts from my mind.
For as the rain or snow shall come down from heaven,
and shall not return until it have saturated the earth, and it bring forth and bud,
and give seed to the sower, and bread for meat,
so shall my word be.
Whatsoever shall go forth out of my mouth, it shall by no means turn back,
until all that I have willed is accompished.
+ Lxx Isaiah 55:8-
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In the Biblical climate the almond tree is the first tree to put forth flowers. Already in January when, as the days get longer, it only grows colder -
A few weeks later the orchards are clothed in a rosy-
Around the Mediterranean Spring comes early and it’s abundance (or otherwise) depends mostly on sufficient rain. In good years, as soon as the weather warms up a little, there is a veritable outburst of fresh green and flowers.
Thus, Great Lent truly greets us like a ‘Lenten Spring’, as the Triodion puts it.
And by the time we reach Holy Week, there may already be some early roses: to cover the Epitaphion -
The paschal joy is expressed in many things, including the festive ringing of bells -
For Christ is risen indeed!
Local customs for Palm Sunday largely depend on the available trees. In Israel, and other countries warm enough to grown palm trees, two very long palm branches may be used to decorate the entrance of the church, like an arch of triumph.
We may also see small crosses folded from palm leaves. These will be blessed together with green branches -
In Christian cultures people usually decorate eggs to celebrate the Resurrection.
For weeks we have not had any eggs, while the chickens will have started laying again (after winter) even before the beginning of Lent. So there is plenty for everybody, and to spare!
The traditional colour is red, in memory of an old story about the reality of the Resurrection. But in some areas we find beautiful designs -
In Easter night, the Paschal colour is white, in remembrance of our Baptism. But a second colour associated with these days is red, in some areas worn for the Paschal procession at daytime.
Usually, the egg we receive as a blessing at the end of the Paschal vigil will also be red. An old method uses the dry outer skins of onions (only the brown part), which we have saved for this purpose all during Great Lent > recipe
The patterns in the picture above been scratched into the paint with a pin or needle, after colouring. Paint or markers can also be used to decorate on top of the red.
Left and below some beautiful examples of more elaborate decorations from traditional Orthodox areas.
As mentioned above, there exists a wonderful tradition to save onion skins, all during Great Lent, for colouring the Easter eggs. Though, if you have to cater for a large community, you may have to start earlier!
Keep only the brown papery outer skins and store loosely in a brown paper bag, in a dry place. Thus they should keep without getting mouldy.
Recipe: Boil the onion skins in plenty of water for ½ -
In Biblical lands, winter rains and snow on the mountains bring the promise of a good harvest, while the warmth of the sun in spring speeds up the growth. When the Old Testament Passover came, the barley harvest in Judea was ready to be festively inaugurated. But in Galilea, being further north and a bit higher up, the actual grain harvest would have started a bit later.
At harvest time, farmers all over the world hope for dry weather. But during the growing season, especially in a dry climate, rain is most welcome -
It is somewhere in this season, that the Church celebrates the Feast of Mid-