From early times, flowers have been used by civilizations in funeral rituals and to express sympathy following a person’s death. The ancient Greeks, for example, would place a crown of flowers on the head of the deceased and cover the tomb with wreaths and flower petals.
Symbolization of rebirth and power to convey different emotions
This connection between flowers and death comes both from flowers’ symbolization of rebirth and their power to convey different emotions and meanings.
Wreaths or bouquests
Flowers, whether in the form of a wreath at a funeral or a private bouquet, are a way of sending a thoughtful and meaningful message of sympathy which will be a comfort to people mourning the loss of a loved one.
Types of flowers generally associated with funerals
Lilies are the flower most commonly associated with funerals and are often interpreted as a symbol of innocence, virtue and purity.
Lilies come in various colours; white, orange, yellow and pink but white lilies are usually used at funerals as they specifically symbolise simplicity and restored innocence.
The white stargazer lily which is a recent hybrid is a popular choice for funerals.
Chrysanthemums are a traditional funeral flower in many countries and signifies devotion and loyalty.
They are available in a variety of colours including white, yellow, burgundy and pink.
Carnations are a popular funeral flower and symbolise pride and beauty.
Different colours are used to express specific feelings. Red carnations convey passion and strength of feeling, pink carnations remembrance and white carnations truth, innocence, purity and uncomplicated love.
Roses, with their deep association with romantic love are another popular choice.
Red roses denote deep passion and romantic love. White roses suggest reverence, humility, innocence, and youthfulness, yellow roses signify love and pink ones love, grace and gentility.
Gladioli are said to represent strength of character, sincerity and moral integrity.
The name gladiolus, which derives from the Latin word gladius meaning a sword, comes from the shape of the leaves.
Interestingly, Gladioli are also said to represent infatuation with the sharp leaves conveying the message that the giver’s heart is pierced with passion.
Irises, which take their name from the Greek word for rainbows, signify faithfulness and hope.
The Iris Albicans, also known as the Cemetery Iris, the White Cemetery Iris, or the White Flag Iris, which grows naturally in many countries throughout the Middle East and northern Africa is often planted on graves in Muslim regions.
Other flowers associated with funerals
The Society of American Florists has compiled a comprehensive list of the symbolism and meaning of flowers. Here are the meanings of some other flowers often used for funerals:
- Forget-me-nots: remember me for ever
- Hydrangea: perseverance
- Hyacinth: sincerity
- Jasmine: grace and elegance
- Nasturtium: patriotism
- Peony: healing
- Poppy: consolation
- Sunflower: adoration
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