Domenica delle palme – Palm Sunday in Sicily
The Palm Sunday festivity celebrates the welcoming of Jesus in the city of Jerusalem.
It is custom in Sicily to bring palms and olive branches in Church for benediction then to be kept in homes or gifted to friends and relatives to wish health and peacefulness. These branches will be kept all year long (if not bad luck or tragedies could turn up) and replaced the next year with new ones.
A common way of saying: “ma tù u sarbi pà ruminica rì Parmi?” (are you saving it for Palm Sunday) probable derives from this tradition and is used when someone saves something like clothing or anything else, for a special occasion (very anti-consumerist!).
On Palm Sunday in Palermo the city bristles of very particular characters: “the Palm vendors”! You find them practically everywhere, in front of churches, at stoplights, all insistently trying to convince perople to buy their palms all decorated and braided, or even silver or gold painted olive twigs. This is one of the curious occupations of jobless men that usually take their little kids along to convince passer-bys to buy their goods yelling: “Palme, palme!”.
In the past these palms were braided by “palmari” which were artisans that at least a month ahead used to pick the best branches to be left to dry until braiding and decorating took place. Today these palm are prepared by florists.
Since a few years, though, there is a little red enemy (which isn’t a tiny cardinal nor a, anti-clerical comunist) has intention of threatening this custom. This “little guy” is intentioned to change the aspect of our city and eliminate these traditions. This big-eater and enemy of the Palm trees that adorn Palermo by voraciously feeding itself of the palm tree trunks transforming them into those exotic beach-umbrella we see on the shores.
This avid glutton palm tree attacker is the Red palm weevil an insect similar to a cockroach arrived in Sicily in the year 2005, of course not by its will! Brought in Sicily from Egypt by an avid florist that cheaply purchased small palm trees infested of larvas selling them here gaining high profits.
Since then this little beast has undisturbedly destroyed thousands of palm trees. Noone has been capable of stopping it, great minds and scientists from all over the world have tried. They’ve tempted with insecticides and lethal gases that have given the result of killing other insects, reptiles and birds and polluting aquifers. They’ve tried with acustic probes with which it is possible to hear these voracious insects eating the tender inner sides of the palm truncks. They’ve tried with pheromones and steril masculin weevils but no luck! Now the weevil has gained the upper hand on man that is the real responsible to blame. The weevil before being brought here, tranquilly lived in New Guinea without doing no harm as part of an eco-system in which it was useful, instead. Its larvas represented a protein resource.
When avid mankind imported oil palms to make French fries, the red insect, together with the entire eco-system was disconcerted and here he is eating our beautiful palm trees emblem of the city of Palermo! This should remind us that sometimes nature can turn against us!
When on Palm Sunday I will see decorated palms displayed near churches and in my friends’ apartments, I will certainly think of the red palm weevil, and I hope that one day, after haven given us this lesson, it will let our palm trees go and return to where it came from and was respected and appreciated. Most of all, I hope man will realise that Nature must be loved and respected because there can always be a little rebel that unaware will take the ….!
written by Evelin Costa translated by Maria Lina Bommarito