In North America, besides the Easter bunny and chocolate eggs, the Easter Lily is one of the most recognized symbols of Easter. The Easter Lily (lilium longiflorum) has been the traditional flower for Easter ever since they were brought to the USA from Japan.
The Easter lily is native to Japan’s Ryukyu Islands and was discovered by British plant expert, Carl Peter Thunberg. It was sent to England in 1819 and made its way to Bermuda in the mid 1800s as a commercial crop, where it was called “Bermuda Lily.” Unfortunately, the entire lily crop was destroyed by a virus. And so, Japan became the only place where the lily was grown. In the 1920s, Japan was the number one producer and exporter of Easter lilies.
Louis Houghton, an American WWI soldier, can be credited for the current production of Easter lilies in the United States. In 1919, he supposedly smuggled a suitcase of lily bulbs to Oregon. As a result of the war, Japan wasn’t able to supply the lily bulbs to the US any more and lily bulb prices skyrocketed. At that time, Easter lilies were called “White Gold;” hobbyists went into the business to cash in. Today, California-Oregon border is known as the “Easter Lily Capital of the World,” growing over 95% of all the Easter Lilies in the world.
Lilies are typically summer blooming flowers, but flower growers decided to forced them into spring bloom to celebrate Easter. Pure and white, the flower symbolizes purity, virtue, hope and life—the essence of Easter. Christians believe that the beautiful white lilies emerged where Christ’s sweat fell to the ground in his final hours of sorrow and deep distress in the Garden of Gethsemane. The flower bulbs, which should be buried, were said to represent the tomb of Jesus and the showy trumpet-shaped flowers symbolize the resurrection.
Many churches celebrate Easter, the resurrection of Jesus and the hope of everlasting life, by decorating altars and crosses with displays of Easter lilies. But whether people are religious or not, thousands of people decorate their homes with potted Easter lilies in the spring.
- Easter Lilies- A Sign of Spring! (funflowerfacts.com)