My friend I were talking about flowers, I mentioned I loved roses, she said she loved lilies, we got to talking, and we wondered where the tradition of lilies for funeral came from (why lilies?) …..
So I fired up my trusty google (and came up with a few theories…..
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. The white lily expresses majesty and purity, where as white stargazer lilies specifically symbolize sympathy.
Flowers have long been a prominent way to express sympathy, love, condolence and respect especially after the passing of someone we know.
But why do we use them and what do they mean?
We look into the history of funeral flowers as well as the symbolism behind the most commonly used funeral and sympathy flowers….
Today flowers are used at funerals as a visual expression of our sympathy, grief, love and respect to the deceased, but this was not always the case.
In early times, fragrant funeral flowers were placed on and around the casket of the deceased to perfume the area and ward off the smell of the decaying body.
Luckily, we found a better way to manage the odour, but the flower trend stayed.
Mid-Western funeral practices then saw the role of ‘Flower Ladies’ develop, a role as important as acting as a pall bearer.
Six ladies who were usually close friends or family of the deceased would carry the flowers into a flower vehicle and help to set them up at the cemetery.
However, this role faded and today everyone is welcome to express their feelings through flowers by bringing a flower arrangement that embodies their relationship and feelings towards the deceased and their family.
It is also now common to send sympathy flowers or a hamper to the home of close family of the deceased.
Common Funeral Flower Meanings
Lilies are perhaps the most popular flower at funeral services because of their representation of the innocence that has been restored in the soul of the deceased.
Any type of white lily is appropriate as they represent purity and majesty.
However, the white stargazer lily in particular symbolises sympathy, and features in many funeral and sympathy floral arrangements and bouquets.
The peace lily has long been used in religious ceremonies as the flower represents peace, innocence, harmony and purity after death.
They are also thought to be associated with the resurrection of Jesus Christ because they die during winter and come back to life in the spring.
Just like white lilies, white roses represent purity and innocence, and are a common addition to sympathy and funeral flower arrangements.
Other colours of roses are also used to remember the deceased. Pink roses stand for love, grace and appreciation and are usually given to the bereaved, while dark red roses symbolise grief.
Yellow roses signify friendship and are given by friends of the deceased to represent their loyalty.
Potted orchids are a long-lasting elegant plant that make the perfect choice for a sympathy gift.
The exotic flower evokes feelings of renewal and innocence, and the orchid flower means ‘I will always love you’.
Chrysanthemums are a common feature in flower arrangements at funeral services because white chrysanthemums carry meanings associated with the death of a loved one, such as mourning and grief.
Besides their symbolism, the white blooms are used in bouquets and arrangements as a welcome, positive and cheerful tribute.
When carnations are used in funeral floral arrangements like comfort, they stand for love and admiration, but they are commonly used for their sweet long-lasting fragrance too.
Like orchids, each colour carnation has a different meaning; red symbolises admiration for a loved one that is deceased, pink stand for remembrance of the dead and white represent untainted love and innocence.
So there you go ….. originally to cover up bad smells. And lilies are pretty pungent. And before you know it, I’ve looked into other flowers as well 😉