From our Archives: The Easter Lily Brings Peace and Happiness

By Mary Helen Crain, April 1980
   “Spring is the sound through an open window, of children playing, laughing, of roller skates and bikes. Spring is baby animals in the fields, mother birds building nests and a sun that grows warm. Spring is pussy willows and bumble bees, robins and daffodils. Spring is sudden rain and a fresh green haze in the woods across the meadow. Spring is Easter…”
   Isn’t that a nice quotation? I found it a long time ago in “Living With Flowers,” a delightful little booklet that many florists mail to their customers. Maybe Easter doesn’t always come in that particular kind of weather where you live but it is something nice to think about, isn’t it? This time we need flowers. We have been thinking snow and looking at it for a long time.
   One of the earliest flowers of civilization will arrive early before Easter and florists will bring it to people’s mind with beautiful new flowers, but never will they forget the Easter lily.
   Lilies have grown wild all over the globe for as long as anyone knows. For years it has been an intricate part of the Christian festival of Easter. The legends concerning them are legion. Some say they sprang from the tears of Eve when she was expelled from the Garden of Eden. But lilies are said to bring happiness to everyone and to have miraculous healing powers. Once in the days of old there was a knight who was always sad of heart until one day his wife found a lily of purest white and she pressed it to his brow. The knight smiled and was happy forever after.
   When lilies were first cultivated they were produced for medical purposes. The roots were ground and mixed with honey to give a substance of “glueing” severed muscles. Mixed with olive oil, they made the healing ointment for burns. The juice was used for poisonous bites.
   The lily came to America from Japan. A missionary from England took some bulbs with him when he returned home. Ill winds blew his ship off its course and he found himself on the island of Bermuda. A Rector befriended him. In gratitude the missionary gave him lily bulbs for his garden. The climate was perfect for them and within a generation lilies became a feature of the island. In 1876, a horticulturist from Philadelphia saw the flowers and appreciated their possibilities from a commercial standpoint. He imported them and forced them into full bloom for Easter.
   Other lilies came to our country by other missionaries and traders from Asia, China and Korea. Oriental lilies from Korea brought a legend. A hermit once removed an arrow from a tiger and the tiger became his devoted friend. Later when the tiger was about to die he begged his friend to hold him close. Miraculously the tiger’s body turned into a beautiful orange and black lily.
   The Regal lily, waxen white, was discovered in 1903 by the head of the Arnold Arboretum of Massachusetts. It was a hard process but by 1910 these bulbs were the basis of all the hybrid lilies we enjoy today.
   “Lilies never sleep,” says one grower of the stately blooms. They have no dormant period. They bring peace and happiness to everyone. It is said that the sun dances for joy as it rises on Easter morning and all who wear flowers will carry this happy spirit throughout the year.
   Many other flowers all seem to burst into bloom to greet the joyous Eastertide. They, too, gladden our hearts and make us feel alive again. But the Easter lily is the one pure white, calm and dignified flower that brings the true meaning of Easter to us. It has become an inseparable part of the day of the resurrection of the Lord. Easter is coming. April 12th this year. Let the beautifully grown lily help you celebrate!

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