Parents! Kids! Beware of…Palm Sunday?

Fresh from the annals of, “What If?” and, “Worst-First” thinking comes this timely tidbit:

Dear Free-Range Kids: Yesterday was Palm Sunday and at my church there’s a tradition that goes all the way back to my own preschool days of the little Sunday School kids leading a processional into the church waving palm branches and singing. They had always used either artificial plastic palm fronds or real ones if someone had some to donate and seeing the little ones waving their branches was always a highlight. Well, this year I waited eagerly for my three-year-old daughter to come in with her class and in they came waving………green paper streamers?

When I picked her up later I asked the teachers what had happened to the palm branches. I’m sure you can guess the answer. Yep, didn’t want anyone to get poked in the eye. Feeling just a little naughty, I feigned shock and asked who had gotten poked in the eye last year. Anyone want to guess again?

You’ve got it, no one got poked in the eye last year, no one has ever been poked in the eye in the last 35 or so years that the church has been doing it. Yep, someone MIGHT get poked in the eye. Sigh.

Lenore here: A sigh from this end, too. Because once again we are treating this generation as the most vulnerable, endangered, fragile and, I guess,  uncoordinated generation EVER.  — L. 

45 Responses

  1. We had real palm branches. My eyes itched the entire time the kids were waving them! Guessing allergies because nobody actually poked me!

  2. WARNING!!! DON’T TAKE THAT NEXT BREATH!! It MIGHT be your last……….

  3. this had me laughing only because at Church this week I saw kids using palms as swords. I don’t Catholics will be getting rid of the real thing any time soon.

  4. And those leaves have sharp edges so someone could get a… paper cut!

    Maybe they should carry the kids instead of letting them walk too because someone could fall and bump their head. Or at least let them wear helmets when they walk! Oh, won’t somebody think of the children!

  5. Pitiful! Thankfully our church wouldn’t do that. (Well, we had an interim pastor who might’ve tried that, but she is gone now.)

    We had big ole honking palms this past week. HUGE. The kids LOVED THEM!

  6. Poked in the eye?? You have GOT to be kidding me. They’re soft and rounded! So sorry for the children! It’s a grand tradition!!!

  7. Poke in the eye? Maybe we had defective palms or something, but it seems to me it would be like getting poked with a blade of grass. As in the darn thing bends before any damage could be done.

    Paper cuts, on the other hand, were a risk. Especially when folding the palms to make crosses or, like my mother, weave baskets with them.

  8. We used real palm branches. Gave them to 95 children age 2-5. All survived. No eyes were poked. The kids loved them! 🙂

  9. I’m a preschool director at a 57 year old church run program and yep, we give out real palms (but also instructions on not using them as swords😉 ) The crowd of children waving them makes my heart swell! (and nobody has ever been poked in the eye)

  10. When I was in high school, I was enrolled in both instrumental and vocal music classes, and for one “holiday” concert (because you can’t say “Christmas” in schools anymore), we sang a song called “Light The Candles of Freedom” for Hanukkah, with actual candles. Some girls in my class had cut out some cardboard donut-looking things in advance, to put around the candles, so the dripping wax wouldn’t burn our hands (not sure why our teacher didn’t think to buy dripless candles, but anyway), and…….my cardboard donut didn’t work–the wax dripped on my hand, it hurt a bit, and I just kept singing. My point is, stuff happens, and sometimes people get hurt, but that doesn’t mean we should just eliminate everything that could potentially be dangerous. I think the candles added to the song, just as the palm branches added to the ceremony the OP is describing (I’d imagine), and as long as precautions are taken, like the cardboard wax-protectors (or, maybe spring for actual candle holders next time), and the bucket of water we had discreetly placed by the piano just in case someone might happen to burst into flames, then there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have candles, palm fronds, and Peter Pan flying in through the window on a pulley and harness system–and yes, my high school did that too.

  11. Crimeny. People can’t leave anything alone, can they?

  12. Actually…this did happen at our church. Yep, leave it to my kid to poke my other kid in the eye with her palm branch. And lo, the world did not end and no one got sued or arrested or scarred for life. The parade continued without me even noticing the event until I observed the poked one rubbing her watering, reddening eye throughout her choir performance. She later identified her sister as the guilty party. The eye healed quickly and hopefully she learned not to instigate palm branch sword fights with her weapon-loving sister in the future.

  13. I would change churches to show my displeasure.

  14. My boys were using them as swords this Sunday. It was cute, then again we were alone the cry room and both of them were laughing their heads off.

  15. Am I alone in thinking that the teens and Tweens I know who are fascinated by oddball knives and actual swords are the products of overprotective parenting? As in, deny your son so much as a Barlow pocket-knife when he’s ten and watch him buy himself an assortment of Klingon can-openers when he turns 18?

  16. @Emily if you were singing a hanukkah song it was indeed a Holiday thing…I do not support being crazy about safety & fear, I do support having events that include everyone.

  17. Emily, are you from Michigan? My high school did Peter Pan back in the day too, with them really flying around.
    As a mother with an infant, toddler, and preschooler along with three more, I have other reasons for understanding the palms being removed. *I* didn’t want to get poked in the eye! PUT THE BLESSED THING DOWN, ALREADY!
    But that’s a selfish parent thing, not a bureaucratic paranoia thing.

  18. I’m going play a bit of Devil’s advocate here. Seems appropriate, given the holiday.

    Just because “nobody has been hurt before” is not in and of itself a valid argument that something is safe and should not be changed. it merely puts an upper bound on the risk. Assume 100 kids per year for 35 years would mean that it’s at least no more risky than 1:3500. Very probably less than that, but that doesn’t mean the risk is 0.

    And of course that doesn’t mean something is unsafe and should be changed.

    What we should ask is

    Do streamers cost more than palms? Maybe less? Can they be re-used?

    What is the cost of a poke in the eye? Will someone really lose their eye, or will it just hurt?

    What is the risk of a poke in the eye?

    And

    What is the cost of changing tradition? Seems a lot of people are really stuck on the idea of palms. I know it’s religious, but is change necessarily bad? If we could replace the real palms with soft plastic palms that looked about the same, could be re-used year after year, and wouldn’t hurt anyone who was poked with one, then why not?

    Don’t reject change just because it’s change. Figure out whether the change makes sense.

  19. I understand where you are coming from Rich and when we talk about practical stuff I am the first to say “Don’t idealise it just because our forefathers did it because they did lots of totally nutty stuff!” and I realise that embracing change is a good thing to do if it makes life safer or easier or whatever.

    But that is why I think it becomes even more important to leave these rituals as they have always been. Apart from anything else, they make us feel a connection with our history, which I think is very important. There is no practical reason for them and personally I think it would be sad to change them just to save a couple of dollars or for some really far-fetched possibility that someone might get a swollen eye once every 35 years.

  20. Palm Sunday may be dangerous with the killer branches, but Passover can be equally, or even more, hazardous. Matzo can be a choking hazard because it’s so dry and the crumbs can stick in the throat; matzo has uneven edges when it’s broken and could potentially cut delicate little fingers; kids can hurt themselves throwing matzo balls at each other (I’ve eaten some pretty hard matzo balls in my time); chicken soup is a burn hazard because it’s hot; haroseth is made with apples and nuts, which are known choking hazards and allergens; and the children could be abducted from their seats at the table because the parents are drinking wine during the Seder and therefore not paying total attention to them. The door is also opened for a man who’s a total stranger who could be a potential pervert/child molester/kidnapper. After all, Elijah never went through an FBI or Interpol background check, so you just never know about him.

  21. […] Fresh from the annals of, What If? and, Worst-First thinking comes this timely tidbit: Dear Free-Range Kids: Yesterday was Palm Sunday and at my church theres a tradition that goes all the way back to my own preschool days of the little Sunday School kids leading a processional into the church waving palm branches and … Read more: https://freerangekids.wordpress.com/ […]

  22. To answer Rich’s questions:

    Do streamers cost more than palms? Maybe less? Can they be re-used?

    OP said they used reusable plastic ones unless real ones were donated, so yes it seems streamers cost more because the palms didn’t cost the church anything at this point.

    What is the cost of a poke in the eye? Will someone really lose their eye, or will it just hurt?

    I have never seen anyone lose an eye from a palm despite living in a palm paradise and seeing plenty of kids (including myself poked). Not saying no one ever has but you’d have to really be working at it.

    What is the risk of a poke in the eye?

    Unknown, but as this church isn’t alone in a preschool palm waiving tradition I’d estimate much less than 1: 3500

    And

    What is the cost of changing tradition? Seems a lot of people are really stuck on the idea of palms. I know it’s religious, but is change necessarily bad?

    Not necessarily bad, but you lose a lot of the symbolism by changing it to streamers. When talking about religion (and small children) symbolism is a big deal. Much meaning can be lost by arbitrarily changing symbols.

    If we could replace the real palms with soft plastic palms that looked about the same, could be re-used year after year, and wouldn’t hurt anyone who was poked with one, then why not?

    Good question. They seem to have reusable plastic ones and still used the streamers.

  23. The church I went to as a kid did not use palm leaves on Palm Sunday. Perhaps that is why I never understood the significance.

    Seems like I read some book, “Nineteen Eighty Four” or “Brave New World” where the idea was to take common tradition and water it down until it had no significance any more. Welcome to the future people, where we give away our past to keep our kids safe. It will make it so much easier for the alien overloads to take over when they can just say they are doing it to keep the kids safe.

  24. @gap.runner – You made me laugh! My kids were always in danger of weird Woody Allenesque uncles, dying of starvation or constipation from the matzoh, but mostly boredom at the annual pilgrimage to my currently 87 yr old MIL’s house. And yes, we are still expected to show up, what I wouldn’t give for a palm frond now and then!

  25. Am I alone in thinking that the teens and Tweens I know who are fascinated by oddball knives and actual swords are the products of overprotective parenting? As in, deny your son so much as a Barlow pocket-knife when he’s ten and watch him buy himself an assortment of Klingon can-openers when he turns 18?

    http://goo.gl/5EyQR

  26. […] Fresh from the annals of, What If? and, Worst-First thinking comes this timely tidbit: Dear Free-Range Kids: Yesterday was Palm Sunday and at my church theres a tradition that goes all the way back to my own preschool days of the little Sunday School kids leading a processional into the church waving palm branches and … Read more: https://freerangekids.wordpress.com/ […]

  27. So the combination of paper streamers inn as church that no doubt also had candles is better?

  28. […] Fresh from the annals of, What If? and, Worst-First thinking comes this timely tidbit: Dear Free-Range Kids: Yesterday was Palm Sunday and at my church theres a tradition that goes all the way back to my own preschool days of the little Sunday School kids leading a processional into the church waving palm branches and … Read more: https://freerangekids.wordpress.com/ […]

  29. I image fingers poke more kids in the eye than objects.
    Have the kids wear mittens while holding their streamers…

  30. @amythompson172 I don’t know; most of my family thinks swords and oddball knives are really cool, and we’re definitely not overprotective. The kids (8 and 9) certainly use pocket knives.

  31. […] Fresh from the annals of, What If? and, Worst-First thinking comes this timely tidbit: Dear Free-Range Kids: Yesterday was Palm Sunday and at my church theres a tradition that goes all the way back to my own preschool days of the little Sunday School kids leading a processional into the church waving palm branches and … Read more: https://freerangekids.wordpress.com/ […]

  32. […] Fresh from the annals of, What If? and, Worst-First thinking comes this timely tidbit: Dear Free-Range Kids: Yesterday was Palm Sunday and at my church theres a tradition that goes all the way back to my own preschool days of the little Sunday School kids leading a processional into the church waving palm branches and … Read more: https://freerangekids.wordpress.com/ […]

  33. […] Fresh from the annals of, What If? and, Worst-First thinking comes this timely tidbit: Dear Free-Range Kids: Yesterday was Palm Sunday and at my church theres a tradition that goes all the way back to my own preschool days of the little Sunday School kids leading a processional into the church waving palm branches and … Read more: https://freerangekids.wordpress.com/ […]

  34. I’m Jewish, but my Catholic friend told me that she and her brothers and sister used to pick the longest palm leaves and then would whip/smack each other with them behind their mom’s back, much to their harried mother’s consternation. They all survived to adulthood.

  35. One of my favorite Palm Sunday memories–Palm Sword fights in the sanctuary with other members of the children’s choir after the adults went to coffee hour! I was THRILLED to read the comments saying kids are still doing that. What could be more natural or obvious to a kid?

    And, in our Christmas pageant, we had a large donkey on wheels that Mary rode “into Bethlehem.” Tradition dictated that the Shepherds had to push Mary down the nave at full speed at at least one rehearsal. Mary needed to stay on the donkey till the last minute or go crashing into the communion rail. It was kind of Nativity Chicken. This usually made one of the youngest kids (the lowly Townspeople) cry in fear because she “could have been hurt,” which only meant this poor kid was teased for worrying. And other kids wanted turns…until we were all told to sit down and be still by the choir director because if we kept acting like little hooligans this pageant would never come together, and what would our parents and grandparents think if they came and saw a terrible pageant? Wouldn’t we all be embarrassed then? (Cue irreverent remarks from the 5th Graders.)

    I love holiday traditions.

  36. Ours broke just waving them during the service. They really think someone is going to get poked in the eye?! Somedays I think I’ve heard everything. Lenore, you keep adding to the list…

  37. This makes me so happy that my four year old daughter DID get to wave real palm branches last Sunday. I had to tease our pastor a bit about the non-eco-friendly practice of buying palm branches from who-knows-where, tho. I suggested that next year the kids should go gather oak branches from the park two blocks away. That’d be green, local, AND free range! A win all around!

  38. @ botheredandbewildered

    I really wish this comment section had a “like” button!

  39. When will the authorities start requiring every child to be enclosed in a bubble?

  40. Always great to drop in at Free Range Kids to see what the patients (AKA the Insurance companies and their brain-addled familiars) are doing now that they’ve taken over the asylum. This week it appears they’ve devoted themselves to public health and safety. What if someone got poked in the eye? What if they got poked in the eye by a meteor?, What if they got poked in the eye by a dinosaur? What if they got poked in the eye by a dinosaur on a meteor with a palm frond?….ad infinitum. Lenore is coming to OZ soon, welcome Lenore.

  41. Well, the Bible says if your eye offends you, poke it out. Apparently palm leaves are a good way to do it.

  42. […] I’m a huge fan of the work Lenore Skenazy does over at Free-Range Kids. I don’t know if it’s the fear of litigation, or ever-present (but hardly realized) stranger danger that drives our culture to extreme risk-avoidance, but it concerns me. It’s not healthy to constantly take precautions against what might occur. For example, just in time for Easter: Beware of Palm Sunday. […]

  43. At least we’re still using real palms here! Never heard of such a thing. One thing I AM annoyed about is the getting rid of the incense at church because of all the supposed sensitivies. I miss the smell of church incense!

  44. If you’re going to claim my headaches are ‘supposed’ then I’m going to open a whole can ‘supposed’s. Let’s not go there.

  45. I just saw this post, and had to throw in my two cents: Clearly someone forgot to give the kids their protective eyewear, or the palm fronds would have been a non-issue!

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