In 1777 an explorer named Carl Peter Thunberg discovered the Lillium longiflorum which is native to the Ryukyu islands but the plant that we now call the Easter Lily did not arrive in England until 1819. Until the 1940s North America imported the bulbs from these islands near Japan. Then the bombing of Pearl Harbour occurred and because the supply stopped, both bulbs and plants became very valuable.
Louis Houghton who was a soldier in the war brought a suitcase full of lily bulbs to North America for his friends and that is how the area along the Oregon-California border eventually became known as the "Easter Lily Capital of the World" producing $7 million in bulbs each year.
The trumpet-shaped, white, fragrant, and outward facing flowers are associated with the Christian celebration of Easter. The interesting thing about this is that the lily plant naturally blooms in summer in - not at Easter. This changed when In the 1880s, Ms. Thomas Sargent was visiting Bermuda and loved the flowers that there blooming there. She brought some bulbs back home to Philadelphia and asked William Harris, a local nurseryman to force them into a spring bloom. He did so and began selling them to other florists. This started the tradition of people buying lilies as a symbol of the Resurrection at Easter signifying rebirth and a new beginning.
Some argue that white lilies grew in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus wept before being betrayed by Judas. Others claim that white lilies grew from the repentant tears shed by Eve when she left Eden.
Easter lilies grace homes and churches each spring as a symbol of purity, joy, hope and life. But despite their beauty and symbolism, they are actually very poisonous plants and can kill animals who are tempted to chew on the leaves or flowers.
Like the Easter lily, each of us has a history that is filled with interesting facts. People along the way have encouraged us to grow and make choices. Our character has become symbolic to others whether we know it or not. For some we represent truth and caring. Others may think of us as being faithful or courageous, loyal or giving. We might be recognized for the roles that we play in society - parent, co-worker, mentor or friend.
The things that we do are also important for inspiring others. Are you a cheerful volunteer, someone who brings peace into a chaotic situation or offers a kind word to a stranger? Do you start a conversation in an elevator so everyone laughs and feels comfortable? Do you stand by the bedside of someone who ill or visit a person who never has visitors? Do you thank the postal carrier, offer a cold drink to the person who is cutting their lawn, add a love note to the lunchbox you are packing, give a gift to a prisoner or buy cookies from a child even if you don't like the cookies?
If people were asked to tell other about you what would they say? What do you symbolize? Is it beauty or poison?
This Easter, as you look at the beautiful Easter lilies, remember to think about the fact that you, too, can bring a message of hope and joy and peace to the world.
Happy Easter, everyone!