My series on the “Journey to Easter…Symbols and Traditions” continues.
The lily has a long history as a Christian symbol of purity and goodness. It is particularly associated with the Virgin Mary and there are many images with Mary and lilies in artwork throughout the years. It is a relatively new symbol of Easter, probably because of the white color and religious symbolism. White is also the liturgical color of Easter, symbolizing joy,glory,light and purity.
The current Easter lily is Lilium logiflorum, which is a native of Japan. English travelers brought the species to England in 1819 and in the 1850s commercial cultivation began in Bermuda. In the 1880s American gardener Mrs. Thomas P. Sargent discovered the lilies on a trip to Bermuda and introduced the plant to America.
This plant naturally blooms in July, but can be forced to bloom early. Most of the Easter lilies sold in the US come from farms in northern California and in Oregon. Crescent City, California is famous for having an “Easter in July” celebration of the Easter Lily growers. The farmers grow and harvest the bulbs in the summer/fall and next spring greenhouses force the blooms for Easter.