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What’s a Butter Lamb? Learn About Buffalo’s Easter Tradition

butter lamb
lesterhead, Flickr

Buffalo isn’t exactly short on dishes and delicacies that make out-of-towners scratch their heads. I’m pretty sure I’ve never gotten through a conversation with a friend living in some other corner of the country without hearing “Beef on what?” or “What’s a loganberry?” So if you’re a Buffalonian, there’s about a 600 percent chance you’ve had to explain a butter lamb before.

That’s right. Butter. Lamb.

The butter lamb, or Baranek wielkanocny in Polish (I couldn’t tell you how that one is pronounced, and out of respect, I will not even try), is a traditional butter sculpture known to grace the Easter tables of many Polish, Russian and Slovenian Catholic families. The lamb, which is either shaped by hand or shaped in a mold, symbolizes the sacrifice of the Lamb of God and comes in many shapes and sizes, often featuring peppercorn eyes, a red “Alleluia” flag and a red ribbon representing the Blood of Christ.

Sticks of butter just lack the creativity and pizzazz, quite honestly.

butter lamb
thefoodgroup, Flickr

Considering it’s the Easter/Lenten/Dyngus season, you’re bound to run into a lamb or two on a trip to the store, especially if that store is the Broadway Market. The famous Ma Malczewski started up the tradition in the Queen City decades ago at the market, and once the Easter season gets going, the shelves are stocked with pierogies, candies and, of course, butter lambs.

The Market kicks off its two-and-a-half-week Easter season tomorrow (Thursday, March 14), so you can be sure to expect to see the creamy critters very soon. And rightfully so: A Buffalo Easter dinner without the butter lamb is just ewes-less.

(I already apologize for that one.)

Next: What's a Paczki? The Story Behind Another Buffalo Tradition

Contributed by Ashley Steves

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