Sending funeral flowers is a traditional gesture for offering condolences. It is not unusual to see a funeral or memorial service filled with beautiful sprays and bouquets to honor the memory of a loved one. While many people don’t think twice about funeral flowers, it is interesting to note that this tradition dates back far into history.
Dr. Ralph Solecki, who excavated Shandiar Cave in Iraq in 1951, found evidence of the first funeral flowers. He discovered several burial sites that would later be recorded as the world’s oldest form of religious activity. This took place over 62,000 years old to be more exact. Where were the flowers? After testing the dirt next to the burial sites, the scientists determined that flowers were gathered for the burials and put around the coffins.
Different cultures used funeral flowers to denote the significance of the change of seasons and to symbolize the cycle of birth and death.
On a less sentimental, but more practical note, the use of funeral flowers at burials was to mask the smells of the body. Sounds gross, but they were found helpful this way. In the United States, one of the most popular funerals to apply this method took place in 1847 when President Andrew Jackson was buried. His body wasn’t embalmed, so by the time his burial took place, a pleasantly aromatic solution was required. The undertaker closed the casket and heaped a pile of fragrant flowers atop his casket. This effort worked for the length of the funeral.
Flower ladies were as important as the pallbearers in some parts of the U.S. They were selected with the same care and were typically close relatives or friends. Their duties involved carrying the funeral flowers from the ceremony to the flower vehicle. From there, they’d transport them to the cemetery where they were set up around the burial site. This was common in the Midwest. The tradition died when community became less of a focus and lives became more modernized and busy.
Today, the significance of funeral flowers are varied. There can have religious meanings, represent the deceased’s favorite flower, or serve as comfort for family and friends.
Should you have any questions about funeral flowers or arrangements, our caring and professional staff can guide you in making choices that are appropriate for your needs. We realize this can be a difficult time and we are here to make end-of-life plans as seamless as possible for you and your loved ones.