For my entire life there has always been a butter lamb on the Easter table. The butter lamb is a small lamb molded or shaped from butter. The lamb traditionally has a red ribbon around the neck and a red paschal flag in its rump. The eyes are two peppercorns.
The butter lamb is an old Polish tradition that is adhered to in Buffalo (where I was born). Even after my family left Buffalo, we had one sent to us. I used to get one shipped to me here in San Francisco. I now have a mould and have been making my own butter lamb for years. I may very well have the only butter lamb in California.
The only Easter without a butter lamb was the one I spent with cousins in Poland 25 years ago. On Easter morning it was time for ham, kielbasa and the traditional Easter meal. All washed down with plenty of vodka. I asked where the baranek was? Baranek literally means “little lamb” in Polish. Lamb? No, we have ham on Easter was the response. I was trying to explain that I was looking for the butter lamb. My cousin Tadeusz, the oldest member of the family at the table, suddenly realized what I meant. He was surprised that I knew what a butter lamb was. He was even more surprised that people in Buffalo still kept the tradition as no one in Poland did anymore.