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The magnificent white Easter Lily

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Origins and Myths of The Easter Lily

Beautiful trumpet shaped white flowers, Lilium Longiflorum, native to Japan, are commonly called Easter Lilies in North America and other parts of the world. They are seen in profusion in flower markets, stores, and florists during the Easter season. From ancient times, these lilies are mentioned in literature, poetry, history, and mythology.

Almost every church displays them during the Easter Services and many people grow them in their homes during the season, which is when they always bloom.

The lilies we call “Easter Lilies” are white, and connected to many historical persons including Jesus Christ, his mother, Mary, the Roman goddess Juno, and Eve as she was banished from the Garden of Eden.  Easter lilies are commonly associated with purity, repentance, grace and joy. Another theme they are associated with is re-birth, like that of Jesus when his tomb was found to be empty three days after his entombment. The tomb of his mother, Mary, is associated with the white Easter Lily too.


The Agony of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane painted by El Greco

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Legend About Jesus And The Easter Lily

Followers of Jesus Christ say that the lilies were first found growing where Jesus Christ prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion. The flowers sprang from drops of sweat that poured from him in his agony of knowing that not only was he about to die, but he would die an agonizing method of death. Jesus prayed to God to “take this cup away,” meaning do not make me die, but even as He said it, He quickly followed it with “but if it is thy will so let it be.” Even today, churches are filled with white lilies at Easter time and podiums are banked with them, symbolizing purity, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.



Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden as painted by Peter Paul Rubens

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A Legend Taken From The First Man and First Woman

The first man, Adam, and the first woman, Eve, were in the Garden of Eden that God created for them. The food was plentiful, they lacked for nothing. But the Serpent interfered, persuading Eve to eat of the one fruit God had forbidden them to eat. What’s the connection to the white Easter Lily? The story is that after God discovers their disobedience, they were banished from the Garden. The Serpent and Adam and Eve were each given certain punishments as well. But Eve’s sorrow was so great at the banishment that her repentant tears flowed so hard, that they struck the ground and grew as the White Lily thereafter.

Mary as the Angel Gabriel presents her with white lilies and tells her she is to be the mother of  Jesus

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An Association With The Virgin Mary

The White Lily has long been associated with the Virgin Mary as a symbol of purity. The Angel Gabriel was said to have given Mary a sprig of White Lilies when he informed her she was to be the mother of the Christ. Even when Mary died, and was entombed, three days later her tomb was empty of her body, but was filled with White Lilies.

Lilies Were Symbols of Sexuality??

Oddly enough, during the prudish Victorian era, all lilies were seen as symbols of sexuality because of the stamens and pistils, so that wherever they were exhibited, the offending items were first removed from the trumpet shaped blossom. All I can say about that, is if the Victorians thought lilies were too sexy, there must have been a whole lot of problems in their relationships with their spouses.


Juno, Roman Goddess of marriage and childbirth

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Legend of Juno And The Easter Lily

When Juno, the Roman Queen of the Gods was nursing her son Hercules, a portion of milk fell from the sky and a portion remained in the sky to become the Milky Way. The portion of milk that fell to the ground created the white lily. The portion that stayed in the sky became what we now know as the Milky Way.

If you’d like to grow your own Easter Lilies, it’s never too late! You can purchase bulbs here and get them planted in a pot and have Easter lilies quickly.