In Salzburg and it’s surrounding countryside we have a lot of easter traditions, some are completely different to the ones in the US. Of course some of them are connected with old legends and typical regional behaviors.
The inner circle of easter celebrations starts on Palm sunday with the typical palm. This is a kind of stick with different branches of different trees. In Salzburg it is made out of hazel bush, holly, yew, shinleaf, juniper, catkin, cedar, savin and oak, then a hazelnut stick and some soft willow sticks to hold it together.
These sticks are typically carried by the smaller kids and blessed by the priest in the church during palm Sunday. Of course they get a small gift from the parents and grandparents and the blessed sticks are then stored either on the garret or in the garden and the farmers stick them into the earth of their fields to protect and bless the harvest.
The original habit is coming from the entrance of Jesus in Jerusalem where real palm leaves were used. The tradition was already mentioned in the 7th century and of course, regionally you find a few differences mainly in the combination of the palm trees and also who carries them. In former times, when the rural population was strictly subdivided in farmer and farm hand, only the heir to a farm was allowed to wear a big palm stick – the others were only allowed to wear one leaf brace.
There is also a saying of the one who is the last out of bed on Palm Sunday: it is the so called palm donkey.
This saying is also connected with an old tradition still done in some smaller villages of the countryside (eg. Puch, Saalbach, Thomatal). There one of the altar boys is riding on a living donkey during the palm ceremony. Similar to the entrance of Jesus in Jerusalem.
Sometimes also wooden donkeys are joining the procession.