Having raised Lazarus, Jesus makes his way down the Mount of Olives entering Jerusalem on Sunday. We are told that the crowds wave palm branches and shout “Hosanna!” (Mark 11:9). This is rather odd because it is happening a week before Passover. In the Jewish tradition the waving of palm branches and the singing of Hosanna takes place during the autumn Festival of Booths (Sukkot), not the spring Festival of Passover. The book of Leviticus commands the children of Israel:
So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the Lord for seven days; the first day is a day of Sabbath rest, and the eighth day also is a day of Sabbath rest. On the first day you are to take branches from luxuriant trees—from palms, willows and other leafy trees—and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. (Lev 23:39-40)
The explanation for this apparent confusion might be found in the original meaning of the words found in the Gospels. Hosanna comes from the Hebrew “hoshia-na” meaning “save us, please” found in Psalm 118:25. The original name of Jesus in Hebrew, Yeshua, is built on the same root: to save. So the crowds have spontaneously devised a new ritual, welcoming the messianic savior to Jerusalem using a well-known phrase out of season. The waving of palm branches in April would have struck bystanders as very odd until they realized that Hosanna matches the name of Jesus perfectly. It would then be clear that indeed this is “the one who comes in the name of the Lord” (Ps 118:26).