Butter Lamb for Easter

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butter lamb, for Easter

[Updated July 2013.]

Until Michael and I got married, I had never heard of a butter lamb, a Polish Catholic tradition for Easter. His family always has one on the table on Easter Sunday, and his mother grew up with the same tradition. The lambs are placed on the table but not eaten until after Easter, and they are decorated simply with a flag or a red ribbon around the neck and sometimes peppercorns for eyes. Michael’s mother likes to put a piece of parsley in the lamb’s mouth so that it looks like it’s grazing.

You can purchase butter lambs during the weeks preceding Easter in Polish delis or some grocery stores, or you can make your own using plastic molds or a carve one with a knife and make fur with a garlic press. I found a butter lamb this weekend at Wegman’s and brought it home for Michael as a special surprise. I knew to get it early because his mother had a hard time getting one last year and for the first time did not have one for Easter.

The tradition has also been extended to other holidays by some enterprising companies. Keller’s Creamery produces butter lambs for Easter as well as turkeys for Thanksgiving and trees for Christmas.

Making Your Own Butter Lamb

[Disclosure: This blog earns a small commission through affiliate links.]


  1. Mandy says

    My Polish Nana used to carve her own butter lambs at Easter with cloves for eyes. We’d pack them in our Easter baskets and have them blessed at church along with homemade hot-crossed buns and dyed eggs. They weren’t perfect replicas of lambs, but I sure wish I could make a replica of hers.

  2. says

    Mandy, I’ve seen the molds online but I’ve never seen a hand-carved butter lamb. I bet making one would bring back some wonderful memories for you!

  3. Katrina says

    My mom found a article in the Sunset Magazine back in the 70’s on how to make a traditional Polish butter lamb and we have made it every year.. starting off with my dad when we were younger but being passed on to the kids as we got older. You take two cold sticks of butter, cut one in half and place that piece on the end of the other stick so as to look like the head on a lamb that is settled down. Place a toothpick through the head and body for security. You carve out a neck, round a head- and can use your fingers to smooth out the face a bit, then cut two small legs like they are sticking out in front of the lamb. Round the back butt area and form hind legs close to the body and try to form a belly. The lamb wool is pushed through a small wire strainer and taken off the utensil with a toothpick or knife and placed gently around the lamb leaving only a small area for the face. If the butter starts to get too soft then refridg for a short time. You will need peppercorns for the eyes, carroway seed for the nose- they are together in the center of the nose then each side is tilted upward towards the direction of each ear. I don’t know if that makes sense but hope so. Red thread is used for the mouth, coffee beans or raisans for the front feet, and two tips of chives for the ears. You can gently put a couple toothpicks on the upper body to keep the saran wrap from hitting the butter itself but it should be covered completely as other food smells get into the butter itself if not covered. I don’t know the year the article came out but I hope you try it as it has always been our family tradition. Happy Easter!! Katrina

  4. Norma-Jeanne says

    Thank you Andrea, Mandy & Katrina. Being an American-Ukrainian, I remember this tradition as well. Your posts brought back many memories of my Grandfather showing me and my cousins exactly what Katrina described. I hadn’t thought about it in years. Guess I need to get to work if I’m gonna have the Butter Lamb ready for church blessing tomorrow. Many blessings for Easter, Khrystos Voskres.

  5. faith boyer says

    many years ago there was an article in the magazine section of the Buffalo News that showed how to make your own butter lamb easily. It had excellent directions and pictures and I have been making my own butter lambs for my tables as well as friends’ every Easter since. If desired I can send it.

  6. Pat says

    What a great tradition!!
    A Co-Worker of mine is from Buffalo, NY she is in her early 60’s and from a polish family. She was telling me about some of her Easter family traditions growing up and mentioned the butter lamb. She has been unable to find a place that sells them on Cape Cod so I thought I would find a mold and make her one as a surprise. They do sell the molds at St Joseph School for Boys Bookstore (I goggled and found one). It is a front facing lamb. It was a little pricey but what the heck.
    She also mentioned getting a Chocolate Last Supper candy bar as a kid it was pretty funny!!! Have a blessed Easter

  7. Roxanne Button says

    I had never heard of them either, Andrea, until I married my husband whose family is also Polish. We just spent the morning at the Broadway Market, my favourite thing to do at Easter in Buffalo!

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