[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
- Taste of Home - Woolly Butter Lamb
- Polish Art Center - Plastic Butter Lamb Mold
- Polish American Journal - Clear Plastic Butter/Chocolate Lamb Mold