Why are Flowers the Common Choice to Send for Funerals?

By: Shama Rhoden
Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Archeologists have found evidence of flowers arranged around many ancient burial sites, 

meaning that the practice of using flowers to commemorate the dead and comfort the grieving 

can be dated back to at least 62,000 years ago. It’s a near­universal tradition that has crossed 

borders and oceans, and stood the test of time. Although the reason for placing flowers on a 

grave all those years ago may be different from the reasons we do it now, the sentiment 

remains the same. Comforting the grief­stricken and respecting the deceased are a few reasons 

why we send flowers to funerals.
 

Then and Now
 

In many cultures throughout history, and even today, flowers and other plants are often used in 

art and poetry as a metaphor for the cycle of life. We begin as seeds, grow and mature into 

adults, and eventually wither and die. We share blooming flowers as a reminder of the beauty of 

the deceased’s life, not as a reminder of their death.

Today, we have attached meanings to the different flowers we use. One of the most common 

funeral flowers, oriental lilies, are often used at religious services to represent eternal life, while 

other lilies have come to represent the innocence of the deceased and sympathy for their 

mourners.


Why Flowers?
 

Flowers are a simple, but beautiful, gift that are usually easy to find and send a very clear 

message of support. In older times, the scent of flowers could also mask the smell of 

decomposition, which were especially useful during times of plague when graveyards were often overly  

filled with the recently deceased. In times before embalming or when there was simply too many 

people dying to be properly prepared, the scent of flowers was often all there was to keep the air 

fresh and clean. Fortunately, we no longer have such problems.


When Flowers May Be Inappropriate
 

Although flowers are still a very common gift at funerals, there are times when it may not be 

appropriate or where time is too limited for flowers. In Judaism, for instance, burials must be 

performed as soon as possible, almost immediately in fact, so flowers are not ideal.  In this 

particular example, food baskets are instead gifted to the family afterwards.

There is also a growing trend where families request donations be made to a charity of choice, 

either theirs or the deceased. In this case, we would recommend that you respect the decision 

of the mourners as well as wishes of the deceased.


Despite these changes, you should remember that we have been using flowers to salute our 

dearly departed for a very long time, and that trend is set to continue for just as long, if not 

longer.

 

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