This is something I mean to do each year, but every year it gets to Ash Wednesday and I slap my forehead and think, ‘I’ve forgotten the palm crosses again!’
Palm crosses, as you may know, are handed out on Palm Sunday. They may be held aloft and waved in an embarrassed English manner at suitable points in the liturgy. Small boys use them as swords. Afterwards people take them home (the crosses, not the small boys) and pin them to notice boards, or perhaps put them on the dashboard of the car, as an aid to meditation during Holy Week.
And there they remain. For what are we supposed to do with these holy items? Stick them in the bin? Even protestants hesitate here. Someone admitted to me that she does, actually, put them in the bin, but she unfolds them first so that they are no longer cross-shaped. That’s OK then. My default course of action is to collect my palm crosses until I have a huge handful (I found twelve dotted about the house) and then—ta da!—I finally remember to take them to the vergers so that they can be burnt to make the ashes for Ash Wednesday.
You may have wondered where Ash Wednesday’s ash came from. Is it swept up from the bishop’s grate? Is it made of wood from the Mount of Olives, and ordered from Wippells the ecclesiastical outfitters in a tasteful linen sachet embroidered with a chi-rho? Or is it the cremains of pious priests? No. It is made of last year’s palm crosses. I’m reliably informed that the head verger burns them with his blow torch. Now you know.