Sunday 28th March - Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week in which Jesus was betrayed, tried and crucified, leading to Easter Sunday. It commemorates Jesus’ return to Jerusalem for Passover, greeted by a crowd of people laying palm branches at his feet or waving them, shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David,” and other praises. Jesus rode on a donkey symbolising that he was a king coming in peace, although some hoped that he would overthrow their Roman rulers. Christian churches traditionally bless and distribute palm crosses to mark the day, often with processions, and this goes back to the 4th century.

In Herefordshire a rather quaint custom is still observed in a few churches: St Dubricious, Hentland, St John the Baptist, King’s Caple, and St Tysillio, Sellack. After the Palm Sunday church service, Pax Cakes – round shortbread-like biscuits – are given out by the vicar. They are stamped with the image of the Easter lamb and flag, and a blessing of “Peace and Good Neighbourhood” is spoken with each gift (hence Pax Cakes as “pax” is Latin for ‘peace’).

Two of the churches share their services, connected by a walk which begins with the distribution of palm crosses. The walk crosses a very wobbly footbridge when a donkey joins the procession. It takes just over half an hour depending on the donkey. Cider and sherry are served with the Pax Cakes.

This tradition seems to have originated with the 1570 bequest of local landowner Lady Scudamore. The parishoners were not getting on too well so she gave five shillings for cake and ninepence to buy ale to be consumed in church on Palm Sunday, hopefully thus ensuring peace and reconciliation between neighbours before Easter Communion the following Sunday.

This link has a recipe for Pax Cakes from Borough Market, also including caramelised figs and a sherry and orange syllabub. Perfect for Palm Sunday.