if you didn’t grow up in a church that hands out palm fronds on Palm Sunday and you never saw other people making palm crosses, you may have a few questions about why you’d want to learn how to make things out of palm leaves.
Here’s what you need to know:
Palm Sunday is a Christian holiday that commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, right before his crucifixion.
At the original Palm Sunday (which we can read about in Matthew 21:1–11), many people spread their cloaks and palm branches on the road to prepare a path for Jesus as he entered the city where he would ultimately be crucified.
Today, many churches remember this by having a special Palm Sunday processional or by handing out palm fronds at the end of the service.
If your church hands out palm fronds or if you feel like making them with your kids, you can learn how to make a palm cross with these step-by-step instructions! It’s easy!
How to Make a Palm Cross (Step-by-Step Instructions)
1. Separate your palm frond and remove the strings
If your palm frond is folded over on itself, gently tear the two halves of the palm frond apart, and remove any extra strings. This will make your Palm Sunday cross easier to fold.
Plus, with two palm fronds instead of one, you can make TWO Palm Sunday crafts–both this Palm Cross and possibly a braided palm cross? The options are endless! 🙂
2. Fold the palm frond
Fold the thick end of the palm frond over on itself, being careful to keep the fold “loose” or “rounded.” (Don’t squish it.) Aim for between 1/3 to 1/4 of the palm folded over.
If the skinny end of your palm frond has a looong skinny end, don’t count that part when estimating — it will be extra when you’re done.
This folded area (on the right side in the picture) will be the front, vertical section of your finished Palm Sunday cross. The bigger this folded area, the bigger your palm cross will be, and vice versa.
3. Fold at a 90° angle to create the first arm
Once you have the vertical section of your palm cross folded (step 2), flip it so you’re looking at the BACK — the long side. Fold the long side at a 90° angle to the right to start the first arm.
In the picture you’re looking at what will be the back of the palm cross and what will be the left arm once you flip it over.
4. Continue folding around to start the other arm
Once you’ve started the first arm, you’ll fold the long length of the palm frond back the other way to start the second arm. Be sure to wrap around in front of your palm cross here. You want to basically go in a big circle around the vertical part to create both arms.
This is my favourite way of learning how to make a cross from a palm frond, because you can easily see what all the parts are right away.
I find it’s more difficult to remember how to make a cross with palm leaves when you have to remember a series of random folds before you even get started making your palm frond cross.
5. Finish the second arm
Continue your circle around the the vertical section of the palm frond so you have two arms, both arms are “doubled up,” and your extra length is pointing past the first arm you made (to the right, when you’re looking at the back of the palm leaf cross).
6. Fold the extra length up at a 45° angle
At this point, you have a cross out of palms. (See, I told you making palm crosses was easy!) Now, you just need to secure it.
We will do that by creating two “sashes” to hold the cross in place. So fold the extra length of palm cross up and to the right, at a 45° angle, so it goes right in between the top of the vertical section and the first arm.
7. Create the first “sash”
Next, turn the palm cross over, and fold the extra length of palm frond diagonally across the front of the palm cross so it looks like a “sash.”
The pictures show what your palm cross will look like from the front and from the back.
8. Fold the extra length straight across the bottom
Hopefully you’re not running out of extra length yet! (Figuring out how much palm frond you need is definitely the trickiest part of folding palms into crosses.)
Here, you’ll run the extra length straight across, left to right, right under the “arms.”
9. Create the other sash
This sash will also go diagonally across the front of the palm leaf cross, but this time it will go bottom to top.
The pictures show what your palm cross will look like from the back and from the front.
10. Tuck in the extra length
Now, you just have to tuck away any extra length and you’re all done!
Fold the extra length to the back of your Palm Sunday cross and tuck it in. You can either go “top down” or “bottom up” — whichever is easiest for you, depending on how much palm frond you have left and how thick it is.
You may have to do this several times (1-3), but just keep going until it’s all tucked in, it looks neat and tidy, and it feels nice and secure. You can also trim the ends, if you’d prefer. This part of making palm crosses is pretty hard to mess up. Just do whatever works!
11. Adjust the lengths and crease the ends
Want your palm cross a little taller or shorter? Are the arms a bit uneven? Make any adjustments you need to (even with easy palm cross instructions, every palm is a bit different and you may need to adjust accordingly).
Then, carefully push on the folds to get a strong, clean crease that looks nice and tidy.
Congratulations! You just learned how to fold a palm cross!
How to Dispose of Palms
While folding palms into crosses is a lot of fun, you may not want to hang on to your palm leaf crosses forever. Eventually, you’ll probably want to know how to dispose of palms.
Yet, it’s important to note that if you attend a church that blesses its palms, you cannot dispose of palms in the trash once they’ve been blessed.
Here’s how to dispose of palms:
Burning them and spreading the ashes
Returning your old palms to church to be turned into ashes for Ash Wednesday next year
Not all churches take old palms, but if you attend a denomination that blesses the palms before handing them out, it’s definitely worth asking how to dispose of palms properly.
And don’t forget — this includes any extra strings or any pieces you cut off making palm crosses as well as any palms you may have “messed up” while you were learning how to make a palm cross for the first time.