Easter Flowers

On Good Friday churches are bare and stark, reflecting the emotions of grief as the church remembers the passion and death of Jesus. But on the Saturday many churches start to take on a different tone as flowers are arranged to celebrate the joy of Easter Sunday and Christ’s resurrection from death. Yellow, Green and White are key colours used within these displays. The Arum Lily is a traditional Easter flower, but in the USA a lily imported from Bermuda is often used instead. In Sweden the tradition is to bring tight-budded branches in doors some weeks before Easter so they bloom for Easter day. In Norway they pick birch or willow and decorate the branches with coloured feathers. Back in the 1800’s the Welsh country folk had the tradition of decorating their family graves with flowers on Easter Eve, so that you walked through them on your way into church on Easter Sunday. In 1870 the curate of Clyro, Francis Kilvert, described this scene in his churchyard.

“People kept arriving from all parts with flowers to dress the graves. Children were coming from the town and from neighbouring villages with baskets of flowers and knives to cut holes in the turf. The roads were lively with people coming and going and the churchyard a busy scene with women and children and a few men moving about among the tombstones and kneeling down beside the green mounds flowering the graves…

More and more people kept coming into the churchyard as they finished their day’s work. The sun went down in glory behind the dingle, but still the work of love went on through the twilight and into the dusk until the moon rose full and splendid. The figures continued to move about among the graves and to bend over the green mounds in the calm clear moonlight and warm air of the balmy evening.

At eight o’clock there was a gathering of the choir in the church to practise the two anthems for tomorrow. The moonlight came streaming in broadly through the chancel windows. When the choir had gone and the lights were out and the church quiet again, as I walked down the churchyard alone the decked graves had a strange effect in the moonlight and looked as if the people had laid down to sleep for the night out of doors, ready dressed to rise early on Easter morning…The air was as soft and warm as a summer night, and the broad moonlight made the quiet village almost as light as day. Everyone seemed to have gone to rest and there was not a sound except the clink and trickle of the brook.”