For years, people have sent flowers to funerals in order to provide much-needed love and support to families grieving the loss of a loved one. But did you know there is actually a long history behind this tradition? Furthermore, were you aware that the type of flowers you choose can actually express different sentiments?
In part one of our two-part series on funeral flowers, we want to share the history and symbolic meaning behind sympathy flowers to shed some light on a topic that has become a core tradition in modern culture.
History Behind Funeral Flowers
Ancient Burial Rites
Sending flowers to a funeral is not a modern custom. In fact, according to The Funeral Source, archaeologists have discovered evidence dating back to 60,000 BC of flower fragments surrounding corpses at ancient burial sites. It is unsure exactly what purpose these flowers served, but researchers hypothesize that the flowers were used in a type of burial ritual or ceremony.
What is now seen as a beautiful and sentimental gesture to the family, adorning a body with plants and flowers had a much more practical application in the past. Prior to modern-day embalming, a body would begin decomposing before services were held. Surrounding a body with flowers would help mask the odor of decomposition for a more pleasant gathering. Though modern-day advancements have made this problem obsolete, the tradition of sending flowers to a funeral still remains.
Today, friends and relatives of the deceased’s family still share their love and support by sending flowers for a number of reasons, the most common of which is to offer sympathy through a beautiful and meaningful gift. But do different flowers convey different sentiments? The next section covers the most common funeral flowers, and the symbolic meaning behind each.
Symbolic Meaning of Funeral Flowers
According to Teleflora, “The type of flowers you choose can express your particular sentiment. The traditional language of flowers provides a way to convey your feelings and send a meaningful message,” (Read more). See below for a brief overview of the symbolic meaning behind the most common funeral flowers.
The lily is the flower most commonly associated with funeral services as they symbolize the innocence that has been restored to the soul of the departed. Read more.
Typically used in fan sprays as a classic and elegant arrangement for traditional funeral services, the gladiolus embodies strength of character, sincerity, and moral integrity. Read more.
Long-lasting and fragrant, carnations are a popular choice for sympathy arrangements. The red carnation evokes admiration while a pink carnation stands for remembrance. White carnations stand for pure love and innocence. Read more.
Mums are frequently included in arrangements for funeral services. Their symbolic meaning varies from country to country, but in the US, they symbolize truth and the flower is usually regarded as positive and cheerful, although New Orleans is a notable exception. Read more.
As one of the most recognizable flowers, roses can be a beautiful part of an arrangement of funeral flowers. White roses evoke reverence, humility, innocence, and youthfulness. Red roses convey respect, love, and courage. Pink roses signify love, grace, appreciation, and gentility. Dark crimson roses denote grief and sorrow. Yellow roses are given by friends of the deceased to symbolize strong ties. Read more.
Orchids say “I will always love you”. When giving an orchid plant as a gesture of sympathy, it is important to give consideration to color. Pink and white are traditional colors of sympathy. Read more.
Sending a seasonal spring plant is a nice and appropriate gesture for a grieving family. The hydragea is a gift of thanks in repayment for understanding and is given as a gesture of heartfelt sincerity. Read more.
Daffodils and Tulips
Bright yellow spring tulips and daffodils are a symbol of renewal and fresh starts. For this reason, they are believed to bring encouragement and hope to a person who is grieving or unhappy so they make a great choice to send as a sympathy gift to the family home of the departed. Read more about daffodils. | Read more about tulips.
Check out part 2 of our funeral flower series. We cover what families can do with funeral flowers after the service.