Special to The Hays Daily News

RUSSELL -- Palm Sunday celebration at St. John Lutheran Church of Russell featured decorations made from braided palm branches.

Ladies of the church gathered prior to the celebration for braiding palms into artwork that was displayed throughout the sanctuary and the chapel in beautiful bouquets.

St. John members who created the various designs this year were Lyla Schmitt, Sheryl Krug, Margaret Finkbeiner, Melid Olson, Marlene Krug, Brenda Keffer, Kaye Schlessman, Susan Krug, Angie Muller, Anna Klema, Kay Homewood and Deloris Janne.

Palm weaving started many centuries ago. Because of the influence of the Roman Empire, the practice spread throughout the Christian world. In the 15th century, Martin Luther emphasized the practice, particularly on Palm Sunday.

On that day, worshippers would receive palm leaves at church, and then return home. There, the family would gather together and the eldest family member would teach the others how to weave religious objects. The house then was decorated with the blessed palms.

Europeans representing many Christian religious traditions brought palm braiding to the United States. The tradition persisted in rural America because of the belief that God would watch over them wherever the blessed palm was displayed.

In the last 10 to 20 years there has been a revival of palm braiding. In 2006, several members of St. John Lutheran Church in Russell went to the Lutheran Church in Wilson to learn this art form from Doris Johnson, Lucas. Members of the  church were decorating  with woven or braided palms.

Woven palms adorn churches during the last week of Lent in celebration of Jesus' triumphal  entry  into Jerusalem as king of kings. Admirers laid down palm branches  in front of his donkey. Palm leaves were a symbol of triumph and victory.  

Deloris Janne is a member of the St. John Altar Guild.