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Baranek Wielkanocny: The Easter Butter Lamb

The Easter butter lamb, or Baranek wielkanocny, is a tradition among Polish, Russian, and Slovenian Catholics. It's a butter sculpture in the shape of a lamb, placed on the table during the Easter feast.

Today, the tradition is most popular in communities where there is a strong Polish population, like Milwaukee and in of parts Michigan, which has the third largest Polish population, after Illinois and New York. Buffalo, in particular, is famous for its butter lambs, where an unlikely icon almost single-handedly introduced the city to the tradition.

In the 1960s, Dorothy Malczewski (nicknamed Ma Malczewski) debuted the Malczewski Butter Lambs company at a local grocery store called the Broadway Market, where the lambs are still sold today.

Malczewski butter lambs come with a signature design: a red flag planted on its back that reads “alleluia” (or Hallelujah) and a red ribbon tied around its neck, that actually symbolizes the blood of Christ. The little lamb might be cute, but that doesn't mean it's not rich in religious symbolism.  

Read more about the traditional butter lamb at Food & Wine. You can find them in groceries and delis in larger cities, or you can order a mold to shape your butter, or sculpt your own butter lamb with these instructions. See a gallery of various butter lambs here.

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