Christianity’s most important holiday is rich in symbols, some secular, some religious, from the Easter bunny who brings treats and toys to children, to the Easter lily, a tall, stalky plant topped by graceful, trumpet-shaped blooms. But while the fragrant flower that fills churches and homes come Easter might seem simply a beautiful decoration welcoming springtime, over the course of its fascinating history it has come to feature a far deeper connotation. Today’s Easter lily meaning is most commonly tied to the Bible and even Jesus Christ himself.

Long ago, pagans connected the plant with motherhood and fertility—there’s a reason we give them as gifts to our moms as thanks for all that they do. There is even an ancient Greek myth which tells the tale of lilies blossoming from the milk of Hera, wife of Zeus. In Roman mythology, Venus, the goddess of love, was so envious of the lily’s beauty and purity that she caused a giant pistil to sprout from its center. Cultures across the world still see lilies as symbols of virtue, hope, grace, and innocence.

bible with easter lilies

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Lilies Are Frequently Found in the Bible

While commercial bulb production of Easter lilies only began in the 19th century, lilies make many appearances in both the Old and New Testaments, emphasizing the flower’s importance to Christianity. King Solomon spoke of them, and Christ referenced them, too. Mention of lilies in the Bible include:

“I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots” (Hosea 14:5).

“Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these” (Luke 12:27).

Lilies Are the Symbol of Several Christian Figures

Referred to as “white-robed apostles of hope,” lilies are believed to have sprouted from the ground where Christ’s blood and tears fell during crucifixion, as well as in the Garden of Gethsemane after his betrayal. It’s also said they grew in the Garden of Eden from Eve’s anguished tears. Because they represent purity, lilies are identified with the Virgin Mary, and in artworks depicting the Annunciation to the Virgin they are often found in the angel Gabriel’s hand. The flower is also associated with the saints Anthony of Padua and Catherine of Siena.

It’s thought that Easter lilies came to symbolize Christ not only because they embody purity—the trumpet-shaped blooms recall the horns that heralded the resurrection of Christ. And the life cycle of Easter lilies, which grow from a bulb for several years beneath the earth before blossoming into magnificent flowers, recalls Jesus’ death and resurrection. What other springtime flower could possibly represent Easter and Christ better?

Want to learn more about Easter lilies? Check out our Easter Lily Care Tips to Keep Them Looking Beautiful.

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