According to archaeological evidence, flowers have played an important role in the traditions surrounding the death and funeral/burial rituals across numerous cultures for at least the past 11,700 years. Today not only does a floral tribute express, comfort and support, it also sends a message concerning hidden feelings, meanings and symbolism pertinent to both the departed and those remembering them.
Because of their array of colours, lovely fragrance and tendency to last for a long time, carnations often feature in expressions of sympathy. Like many flowers, the colour(s) can convey different meanings.
• PINK: remembrance
• RED: admiration, love, yearning
• WHITE: faithfulness, innocence, purity, sweetness, untainted love
• YELLOW: friendship (although it can also symbolize disappointment or rejection)
Chrysanthemums feature prominently as funeral flower but their symbolic meaning can vary widely according to each culture.
In Japan, for instance, they symbolize death and appear almost exclusively at funeral services, whereas other areas of Asia associate these flowers with rebirth. Their colours generally mean:
• RED: love
• WHITE: innocence, purity, truth
Derived from the Latin word for “sword,” thus represent and regardless of their colour, gladioli generally symbolize integrity, morality, sincerity, strong character, etc.
Lilies convey peace and symbolise purity, regaining innocence and rebirth of the soul. Two lily varieties— the Stargazer and the Oriental— additionally signify sympathy and eternal life respectively.
Gracefully elegant, orchids provide thoughtful and calming sympathy because of its long-lasting beauty. Generally orchids of any colour symbolize everlasting love but as a funeral floral remembrance pink and/ or white orchids convey sympathy.
Roses are the most ‘go to’ of flowers for all occasions. While typically associated with romantic love, roses can convey a wide variety of symbolic meaning depending on their colour:
• PINK: admiration, appreciation, elegance, grace, love (often used at the funerals of women or children)
• PURPLE: dignity, elegance (often chosen for the funeral services of grandparents)
• RED: courage, love, respect
• RED, DARK: grief, love, sorrow
• WHITE: humility, innocence, purity, reverence, spirituality, youthfulness (often used at the funerals of children)
• YELLOW: devotion, friendship, loyalty
Flowers speak a universal language. Through their elegant simplicity they interpret and convey remembrance as well as providing comfort and solace.