Easter Traditions

Standing in Tom’s studio window one Sunday, we were wondering why our neighbors, returning over the bridge after mass,  were carrying some sort of branches. Later that Sunday as we visited with them in their garden we asked what they had been carrying. They were quite taken aback as this was Palm Sunday, and it should be obvious that it was their sprigs from church - their “palms”. But their “palms” were actually sprigs of boxwood. “Don’t you use boxwood sprigs in the states?” Well no we use palms. “But do you have palm trees in Vermont?”  So that was the reason for the boxwood - it grows wild in the Dordogne.  
Now several years later I vaguely remember that there is a significance to these sprigs of boxwood. Something about hanging them over a child's door or bed to insure good health throughout the year. When I asked Anne-Marie, our guide to all things French, she was unsure, but said she would ask her parents. She called the next morning and relayed this story.
Her father had answered the phone. Not being a church goer, he was a bit flustered at first by a question about Easter. “Easter--well, yes, it coming sometime in Spring. You’re wondering about boxwood and Palm Sunday? Hmmm, in Algiers we had olive branches. Olive branches are the real thing. That is what would have been at hand 2000 years ago for that first Palm Sunday. My brothers and I would decorate the branches with chocolates and trinkets before we went to church. Then we would sit in church and eat up the chocolates. Our Sunday clothes would be covered in a chocolate mess. The priest would bless empty branches, our mother would fume at our messy clothes, and we would head for home in an imaginary battle with our boxwood swords.”