Can You Bring the Butter Lamb to Easter? Excuse Me, What?

Malczewski's Butter Lambs
Credit: Malczewski's Butter Lambs

Holiday traditions often come with firsts — be it a new family member, new location or new dish to pass — but “please bring the butter lamb” has left some younger people confused.

Butter lamb? As in butter that comes from a lamb instead of cow’s milk? No, no, no. The butter lamb is steeped in tradition and is part of many people’s Easter holiday.

To put it simply, a butter lamb is a stick of butter in the shape of a lamb.

The butter lamb is a big deal in Buffalo, New York. The Malczewski Butter Lamb is one of the most distinguished brands.

According to their site, in 1963, Dorothy Malczewski opened a poultry stand in Buffalo’s Famous Broadway Market, the heart of the old Polish district, where she used her father’s butter lamb mold she found in the attic and created the figures one by one. “Dorothy created five different sizes of butter lambs from 2 ounces to 2 pounds and decorated them with a trademarked red ‘alleluia’ flag signifying peace on Earth, and a red ribbon representing the Blood of Christ,’” their site reads.

Malczewski’s lambs were a success, and she eventually started distributing to local stores and supermarket chains in Buffalo and surrounding markets. The Malczewskis sold their business in 2012 to the Cichocki family, who owns Camellia Meats, a Polish fourth-generation meat business, and they continue to keep the tradition alive — expanding into several additional states. Adam Cichocki tells us that they distribute about 100,000 butter lambs a season, and they range in size with the smallest being about 2 ounces. “The biggest ones go up to 3 pounds and they sell for about $20.”

Malczewski's Butter Lambs

Credit: Malczewski’s Butter Lambs

Butter lambs are a big deal in the Midwest, too. Originating from Eastern Europe, the table accessory is popular anywhere with large Polish populations, and the Midwest, known for its dairy as well, has many Polish immigrants, especially in Milwaukee and Chicago. When Catholic immigrants made their way over to America, they brought many traditions with them, and the butter lamb is one.

According to the Danish Maid Butter Company out of Chicago: “Our original owner, Sivert Kramme, began production on Easter Butter Lambs in 1947. Due to their religious significance, the Easter Butter Lamb rapidly gained in popularity. By the time our father, Ray Wagner, joined the company in the 1960s, Mr. Kramme had added Thanksgiving Butter Turkeys to his holiday line of ‘sculptured butter items.’” Their story is shared on the back of every butter lamb box.

Danish Maid butter lamb

Credit: Cassidy Buenz

For most, the butter lamb is more than just a decorative table piece. Its religious meaning dates back to the Middle Ages.

Don’t have any butter lambs on sale at your local grocery store? You can visit either of these establishments’ websites or Facebook pages for a location near you.