Funeral Flowers: A Tradition Centuries

The tradition of sending or bringing flowers to a funeral has a history dating back for centuries. At the earliest dates for which there are records, people used flowers to mask the problem of body decomposition. Historians believe this is why evidence of flowers has been found in burial caves. It’s difficult to tell whether funeral flowers were also used as a visual decoration at this time, but it’s certain that the aroma of fresh flowers had its practical use hundreds of years ago.

As late as the 1800s embalming was not a “every time” practice, so the use of flowers was still very important, from a practical standpoint. In one situation, the undertaker closed the casket and piled the most-fragrant flowers he could find on and around the casket. This allowed the funeral service to continue uninterrupted.

Poetic/Musical Reference

More than 100 years ago, songwriters and poets used floral references when writing about death, dying and saying goodbye to loved ones. Hymns contain numerous references to flowers and gardens. In time, it became quite common to bring these references to life with fresh flowers creating a garden-like atmosphere or backdrop for the casket. Eventually, the use of flowers changed slightly, to become an expression of the emotions of those attending or those who could not attend. Funeral flowers were meant to show sympathy, grief, sharing grief, love, support etc.

When a funeral was planned, chapels and churches gradually came to resemble indoor gardens. Visitors often saw not only plants and flowers, but small waterfalls, even live birds. In some cultures, it was generally the task of a designated flower lady or ladies to make sure the funeral flowers were on hand and displayed properly. These ladies were responsible for getting the flowers from the chapel or funeral location, to the cemetery, where they would be set up and arranged again.

Being a flower lady was a way of honouring close friends and relatives, just as selecting pall bearers is a special activity. The role of these designated ladies gradually became less common in funerals around the world, so funeral flowers were often delivered by the retail shop from which they were purchased. Professionals in the funeral business attach a number of ideas to the use of flowers, including whatever emotion your family chooses to assign to the gift of flowers you bring.

Expression of Emotion

Funeral flowers are significant for several reasons, usually attached to certain emotions. If you or your family cannot put your feelings into words, flowers of a certain type or colour can help you express your feelings. Communities and cultures put a lot of emphasis on how they care for the dead and honour the dead, Flowers can be a very important part of this care.

Brightly coloured, fresh flowers can help keep a funeral from being depressing. In recent years, the way people look at funerals has changed. This is often seen as a way to celebrate the life of the deceased, rather than just a time for sadness and grief. Funeral flowers can be seen as a combination of both this grief and as a celebration of life that goes on.

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