Christian Traditions 020: Passion Sunday

(Note from Author: Sorry, readers! As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I fell behind in my blogging. This post describes Passion Sunday, which actually occurred two days ago. Apologies!)

Von Trapp Follow-Along: As stated in the previous blog post, Maria discusses several of the most important aspects of Passiontide under “PASSIONTIDE” in her book. She writes approximately one page on Passion Sunday.


Passion Sunday is the first Sunday of Passiontide and of Passion Week. It begins the weeklong commemoration of Jesus’ last year of ministry prior to His crucifixion.

22 March 2015WHEN IS IT?

Passion Sunday begins the two-week Passiontide period and always occurs two Sundays before Easter Sunday. It may occur as early as 8 March or as late as 11 April. This year, Passion Sunday fell on 22 March.

There are two weeks in Passiontide, the last two weeks before Easter Sunday, and so there are two Sundays in Passiontide. The first Sunday of Passiontide, which is the fifth Sunday of Lent, was officially known as “Passion Sunday” until the 1969 Catholic reforms removed any reference to this Sunday specifically or to Passiontide in general (though many Catholic and non-Catholic groups have retained the pre-1969 terminology and commemoration). The second Sunday of Passiontide, which is the sixth Sunday of Lent, is still officially known as “Palm Sunday.” However, Palm Sunday is sometimes unofficially (in some cases, now officially) referred to as “Passion Sunday.” In this post and all other posts discussing the topic, when I talk about “Passion Sunday,” I do not mean “Palm Sunday,” I mean the first Sunday of Passiontide, officially known as “Passion Sunday.”

Passion Sunday Ehler 01WHAT IS IT?

Passion Sunday, or “The First Sunday of the Passion,” is also known as Iudica Sunday or Judica Sunday due to the first word in the opening line of mass on that day (“iudica” or alternate spelling “judica”). “The Sunday is also known as Neomania, the Sunday of the new moon, because it always falls after the new moon which regulates the feast of Easter.” (Source) In Germany, this day is also known as Black Sunday because, although elsewhere the crucifixes are veiled with violet or scarlet cloths, in Germany they are veiled with black cloths. In northeast England, it is known as Carlin Sunday or Carling Sunday because of a tradition of eating carlin peas on this day.

As mentioned in the previous blog post, Passion Sunday has been specifically annually observed since the 800s AD, though Passiontide has been observed since the 200s AD. Furthermore, Passion Sunday begins the first week of Passiontide, “Passion Week.” Today, there are no other observances in Passion Week beyond Passion Sunday. This day “memorializes the increasing antipathy against Christ from the Jews who would not accept Him and accused Him of sorcery and of being blasphemous and possessed by a devil.” (Source)

Unless this has already occurred on Ash Wednesday, on Passion Sunday, statues and sacred images in the church and in the homes of adherents are veiled with purple or scarlet cloth (the cloth may not be translucent or decorated), and this veil remains until Eastertide begins. This veiling stems from the Gospel reading for Passion Sunday, John 8:46-59, wherein Jesus speaks in the temple, at the end of which the Jews take up stones to kill Him, but Jesus “hid Himself” and exited the temple by walking right through them. The veiling is also said to symbolize “the fact that Christ’s Divinity was hidden at the time of His Passion and death” (Source).


The first week of Passiontide has nothing unique to Passiontide going on. The second week of Passiontide, Holy Week, has quite a bit going on! Refer back to the previous post about Passiontide for the full calendar.


There are few traditional activities for Passion Sunday.

  • Readings. The readings for this Sunday for the year 2015 are:
    • Jeremiah 31:31-34
    • Psalm 51:1-12
    • Hebrews 5:5-10
    • John 12:20-33
  • Food. In northeast England, there is a Passion Sunday tradition for eating carlin peas (a.k.a., black peas, parched peas, maple peas).
  • Decor. If you have any statues, icons, religious paintings, etc., or even crucifixes or crosses in your home that have not been veiled, consider veiling them with violet or scarlet cloth until Eastertide.


One of the readings for Passion Sunday is John 12:3-7, wherein a sinful woman (often identified as Mary Magdalene) approaches Jesus, washes His feet with her tears and her hair, and anoints His head with expensive perfume. Therefore, one of the symbols of Passion Sunday is a jar of perfume. So for this activity, buy a small stoppered jar or bottle (you should be able to find these in most craft stores or online via eBay or Etsy) and knit or crochet a cozy. The size and shape of your bottle will dramatically alter the size and shape of your cozy, so I recommend finding a simple pattern for a candle, bottle, or jar cozy/cosie/cover on that works for you. Ideally, craft the cozy with scarlet yarn.




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