Five facts about flowers as ways to honor the dead

Today is the third day of November, a month associated in many cultural and religions traditions with honoring the dead. Día de los Muertos has just concluded, and other celebrations for the dead are happening across the world (as Catholics worldwide are working toward every indulgence for the souls in Purgatory that they can!).

One other thing you might notice a bit more this month is the presence of flowers. So here are five facts about flowers, as associated with honoring the dead.

1. The custom of giving flowers at a funeral dates back at least to 62,000 BC, when we have the earliest known use of flowers as a part of burial, in Iraq.

2. Princess Diana’s funeral may be the world record number of flowers given at a funeral – 60 million flowers, weighing in at around 15,000 tons.

3. Sometimes, a funeral announcement will include the phrase, “in lieu of flowers.” While etiquette expert Emily Post says this means you can still bring flowers (under certain conditions), this often indicates that the arranger would prefer that a monetary gift be given toward the costs of the funeral or toward a particular charity in honor of the deceased.

4. Flowers may not always be the best gift to a loved one when someone has passed. For example, sending flowers isn’t traditional when a Jewish family is sitting shiva after a loved one has died. And I think flowers are not the gift to give a friend who has suffered an early loss.

5. Flowers aren’t just for funerals; they are used to honor the dead on other days or in other ways as well.

  • When a friend of mine recently passed away, her coworkers kept flowers in her office for several weeks in her memory.
  • On Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), celebrants put out orange and yellow marigolds to lead the souls of loved ones from their graves back home. You can read more about this beautiful tradition here.
  • Many mourners find it comforting to bring flowers to the grave of a loved one, or to plant flowers in their loved ones honor, on anniversaries of death, birthdays, or holidays.

Are flowers an important part of honoring and remembered loved ones for you? If so, tell us how in the comment box.

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