For many of us, Easter evokes memories of egg decorating, gift baskets, chocolate bunnies, local church services, family gatherings, parades, and, of course, the Easter Lily (lillium longiflorum). Its beautiful trumpet-shaped blossoms symbolize purity, hope, and life, the spiritual essence of Easter and all the promises of spring. Easter lilies are mostly given along with Easter gifts.
We can thank Louis Houghton, a World War I soldier, for the popularity of the Bermuda lily better known as the Easter lily. In 1919 he brought a suitcase full of hybrid lily bulbs to the southern coast of Oregon and gave them to family and friends to plant. The climate there was ideal for growing this lily, a native of the Ryukyu Islands of Japan, and by 1945, over one thousand west coast growers were producing bulbs for the commercial market. Despite a sales window of only approximately two weeks each year, Easter Lilies are the fourth largest potted plant crop in the U.S., ranking among poinsettias, mums, and azaleas as America's favorite blooming plants.
History, mythology, and art are filled with stories and images that speak of the beauty and majesty of the elegant white flowers. One of the most famous Biblical references is in the Sermon on the Mount, when Christ said, "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they toil not, neither do they spin and yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."Often called the "White-Robed Apostles Of Hope," lilies are said to have been found growing in the Garden of Gethsemane after Christ's agony. At Easter time, Churches bank their altars and surround their crosses with masses of Easter Lilies, to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and hope of life everlasting.
The pure white lily has long been associated with womanhood, too. In early paintings, the Angel Gabriel is pictured extending a branch of pure white lilies to the Virgin Mary, announcing that she is to be the mother of the Christ Child. In other paintings, saints are pictured bringing vases full of white lilies to Mary and the infant Jesus. Tradition has it that when Eve left the Garden of Eden she shed real tears of repentance, and from those remorseful tears sprung up lilies. The spiritual principle held here is that true repentance is the beginning of beauty.A mark of purity and grace throughout the ages, the regal white lily is a fitting symbol of the greater meaning of Easter. Gracing millions of homes and churches, the flowers embody joy, hope and life. Whether given as a gift or enjoyed in your own home, the Easter lily serves as a beautiful reminder that Easter is a time for rejoicing and celebrating. So when you give Easter baskets to your family, don't stop with decorated eggs and chocolate rabbits; include a few Easter lilies and maybe even plant some cedars.
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