Tonawanda News — Butter lambs are a tradition that is uniquely Western New York; one that is not likely to end anytime soon, even with the sale last year of one of the largest local manufacturers of these adorable little molds of butter.
Camellia Foods — specializing in meats, everything from sausage to ham to bacon — bought Malczewski’s, makers of the butter lamb that is so prevalent on dinner tables this time of year, when the Malczewski family decided to retire. The making of those little butter lambs was then put in the hands of one of the youngest members of the Camellia’s clan, Adam Cichocki, 23.
Cichocki explained that growing up helping his family tend to their meat stall at the Broadway Market in Buffalo, he was always aware of the butter lamb and found it surprising how obsessed people became about getting just the right lamb.
“I never thought as a kid that we would be the ones that would be supplying them,” he said. “A lot of people are obsessed with this thing.
Now Cichocki knows everything there is to know about the manufacturing, symbolism and tradition surrounding this Easter must-have.
“It’s a very big deal for people to come down to the Broadway Market to get their butter lamb,” he said.
Basing his knowledge on what he learned from his predecessors, Cichocki explained the lamb is more than just a cute little creature to adorn your Easter dinner table.
“The idea of the butter lamb is that it’s supposed to stand for the Lamb of God,” he said.
A small “alleluia” flag represents peace on earth and the red color of the flag and ribbon signify the blood of Christ.
The Malczewski butter lambs come in five sizes and a variety of styles and poses. The smallest two — in 2- and 4-ounce sizes — are made from a mold and are sold in some area grocery stores. The largest three — which top out at 10 ounces — are handmade with whipped butter piped through a cake decorating bag into what Cichocki described as “curly-style fancier lambs.”
Some have the lamb’s head facing forward, others are turned sideways.
At some point, the originator of Malczewski’s butter lambs — Dorothy — eschewed the traditional red color of the lamb’s ribbon.
“On the four biggest sizes she did not only the red flag but also an orchid-colored flag because it was her favorite color,” Cichocki said.
“People have gotten used to that over the past several years,” he said, resulting in some customers becoming a little particular about which lamb they prefer.
“A lot of people are picky about their sizes they want. If they come on the last Saturday before Easter when we’re starting to sell out, people may not be able to find the exact size and color of lamb they want.”
Cichocki said their single biggest day of butter lamb sales is on Good Friday, so he suggests visiting the market earlier in the week to guarantee your preferred size and color of ribbon.
“People start their own traditions in their family, and we have to make sure we get the right one that they want,” he said.