For years, Kristy* would grow white lilies in her own garden to decorate her house on Easter Sunday every year.
This year, however, the bulbs did not bloom because she could not pay enough attention to the highly sensitive flower.
The Easter Lily, otherwise known as lillum-longiflorum, ‘Snow Queen’ and ‘White Europe’ – is traditionally used to decorate churches and houses on Easter Sunday in many Western countries.
In Pakistan however, Kristy is among only a handful of Christians who can afford to grow or buy the delicate flower.
Many religious scholars see a connection between the flowers and Christianity.
“The white colour is a symbol of new life and more importantly holiness,” said Father Nazar Nawaz, the priest of the St John’s Parish, located in Karachi’s Drigh Colony. “Since Jesus Christ was resurrected on Easter Sunday, that showed that the flesh has died and only the spirit remains; so the white flower might be used to give a sense of the season of spirituality. Nothing more than that,” he said.
Indeed, a visit to different flower shops in the metropolis suggests that finding an Easter Lily is a difficult task.
“The flowers can only be imported from Holland since they’re not sown and grown in Pakistan,” said Dawn Bashir, an employee at the Zerritta Flower shop in Karachi.
Bashir, a Christian who has been selling flowers for seven years, said that the majority of his customers cannot afford to grow the lily or even buy them.
“This Easter not a single customer has turned up with an order to import lilium longiflorum,” he said.
His claim was seconded by some other flower sellers, who said each Easter lily could cost more than Rs300 each. Even if it were available, this price tag would put it beyond the reach of many members of the Christian community.
Fawad Masood, who is based in Lahore and has a passion for gardening says the flower can only be grown in Murree and Lahore. He added, however, that it is very difficult to take care of the delicate flowers that only bloom in spring and dry up quickly in high temperatures.
But some Christian clerics couldn’t care less for the lily. “Decorating Christmas trees, buying Easter lilies or baking hot cross buns are just traditions, while what we need to do is follow the Holy Bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ,” said Pastor Shahid of the Holy Trinity Church.
In poorer localities of Karachi like Azam Basti, where a majority of the minority community’s members live, no one had ever heard of these lilies.
Standing next to St Peter’s Cathedral, a group of young boys pondered over what Easter lily meant.
Pastor Shahid, however, had a answer for them: “The real Easter lilies could be young boys of the Christian community who are destroying themselves on the streets by using drugs. They are the actual lilies which must be protected and decorated in our homes.”
*Name changed to protect identity
Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2013.