While some people believe the first funeral flowers were used to mask the odor of body decomposition at President Andrew Jackson’s funeral in 1874, the earliest record of funeral flowers was actually from the Shanidar caves in Iraq, where a 30-45 year old male Neandertal skeleton was found in the fetal position with pollen deposits from eight wildflowers, among them cornflower, grape hyacinth, hollyhock, and thistle approximately 60-80,000 years ago.
Throughout history, flowers have been used for every stage of the life cycle, from birth to death. In death, flowers are a traditional way to honor the dead which is symbolic of the fragile, fleeting nature of life. It is thought that the natural beauty of flowers can also lessen some of the emotional burden that accompanies the visual imagery of funerals.
In the 19th century, “flower ladies” participated in funerals by carrying flowers from the funeral home to the procession, and were responsible for arranging them at the cemetery plot for the families; this task was considered to be as important as the role of the pallbearers.
Modern Funeral Flowers
Today, flowers are used at funerals for many reasons. First, they help facilitate emotional release, as it is frequently very difficult for mourning families to express their grief verbally. To send flowers is an expression of respect, sympathy, and love to the deceased.
Uses for Funeral Flowers
Funeral flowers can be used in many different ways. They can be displayed during a wake at the funeral home, and in a church or synagogue for religious services. They may also be used to decorate a grave, be sent directly to the family, or be draped over a casket.
While there are no specific flowers associated with funerals, some traditional choices include tulips, gladiolas, carnations roses, calla lilies, golden lilies, irises, and snapdragons.
Floral Arrangement Types
Some of the most commonly used funeral flowers include:
• Crosses and hearts
• Standing sprays
• Casket mounds
• Live plants
Regardless of what flowers you select and how the arrangement is used, flowers can be a visual tribute to the relationship you had with the person and help you express your feelings of loss.