Will you be the “Palmesel” on Sunday?

A donkey - ©iStockphoto.com/GlobalPWith this Sunday being Palmsonntag – Palm Sunday, one of the questions in many German families this weekend will be: “wer wird der Palmesel sein?” (who is going to be the “Palmesel”?)

The Palmesel – literally the “palm donkey” – is a nickname given to the last person to get out of bed on Palm Sunday.

The tradition is not new, but it has mutated over time as it was originally used to refer to the last boy to enter the Church on that day.

Of course, the term refers to the donkey ridden by Christ into Jerusalem prior to his crucifixion, and since the middle ages German towns have held Palm Sunday processions – some with live donkeys, others with wooden ones.


Palmsonntag (Palm Sunday) is the Sunday before Easter.

On this day the Church remembers Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, riding a donkey, where the bystanders waved palm leaves and hailed “Hosana”.

In addition the Catholic Church remembers Christ’s suffering – the so-called Passion, whereas the Protestant Church does this later on in the week on Good Friday.

On this day people go to Church and take palm leaves with them to be blessed.

Two other traditions on this day are:

  • the Palmesel – the last person in the family to get up on this Sunday
  • the Palmhase – like the Easter Bunny, except it brings one or two eggs on Palmsonntag and is a tradition in the Odenwald – part of Hessen.

To hear a simple explanation and a short discussion in German, listen to the podcast:

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