No Palm on Palm Sunday as coronavirus quarantines millions of Ghanaians
Hundreds of streets across Ghana will be quiet for the first time in the country’s history on a Palm Sunday, as the government quarantines millions of Ghanaian Christians to protect them from the ravaging coronavirus spread.
Before COVID-19’s social distancing guidelines altered life across Ghana, the annual ritual is a day Christians in Ghana join their brethren around the world to mark the symbolic and triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem days before his arrest and crucifixion.
The day is also the final Sunday of Lent and the beginning of the Holy Week on the Christian Calendar.
What military hard-handedness could not during military regimes, COVID-19 has done within months, preventing Christians from carrying their palm fronds on the cobbled and dusty streets across the country to celebrate the day.
In light of the growing threats of the coronavirus pandemic, silence reigned on the streets of towns and cities in Ghana as millions of Ghana’s miss the symbolic celebration or the show of it.
Some of the popular streets in Accra noted for Palm Sunday parades were quiet on Sunday as Christian kept to their homes in obedience to the government directive to stay home.
The Kwame Nkrumah Avenue, which runs from the Kwame Nkrumah Circle to the Central Business District; Orgle Road in Kaneshie; the High Street; the Forestry Road in Achimota; the Accra New Town Road; and they deserted the Nii Mankattah Street in Kotobabi on Sunday.
It is christened Palm Sunday because, according to the gospel, the people placed Palm fronds in Jesus’ path and also waved them as they hailed him amid shouts of Hosanna, with the expectation that he was the Messiah to restore peace to them.
Jesus rode a young donkey and was also welcomed by the townspeople with songs and praises, amid the throwing of their garments and on the ground for Him to ride on as a sign of homage.
That has been the ritual since then. However, it was not to be this year in Ghana and other parts of the world where billions of Christians are under quarantine as coronavirus infections hit hard killing more than 62,000 people as of April 4 while keeping more than a million people on hospital beds.
The Head Pastor of the Trinity Chapel of the Global Evangelical Church at Kotobabi in Accra in a live sermon said it was the first time he was celebrating Palm Sunday without a congregation.
“For the first time in my life, we are celebrating Palm Sunday in our homes instead of the church. It tells you that when Christ comes, it will be an individual affair,” he said.
That notwithstanding, he urged his virtual congregation “to lift their palm fronds to sing Hosanna to the Lord”.
He said while the day did not allow Christians to lay or wave palm fronds; it was time for Christians to lay their hearts before Jesus Christ for him to take dominion.
Around the world
In other parts of the world, Christian leaders have devised alternative means to make the symbolic celebrations relevant.
Any branch on the door will do
In the United States, CNN reported that the Catholic Diocese of Camden in New Jersey is keeping it simple.
Palms dipped in bleach
In the Philipines, the country Catholic Bishops Conference rallied their congregations to follow the celebrations on television.
“For the blessing of palms, the faithful who will be following the celebration on TV can hold their palm branches (or any available branch of leaves) while the prayer of blessing of Palms is prayed by the Presider,” CBCP said. “In this case, those who follow the celebration on TV, there is no need for Holy Water to bless the Palm branches.”
After the mass, priests are also asked to go around the streets of their parish to bless the palms—carried by the faithful while at their homes—without the use of holy water.