Do you always send funeral flowers or do you prefer to make a donation to charity?
Arranging flowers around the deceased is one of the oldest forms of mourning and the tradition of flowers at a funeral dates back further than you might imagine! Plants first appeared on Earth during the Cretaceous period, some 130 million years ago. Of course, in relative geologic time, that is a mere drop in the ocean for Earth; if its’ entire history spanned 60 minutes, flowering plants have only been present for the last 90 seconds!! It must have been a bleak and barren landscape indeed back then with no greenery at all!
Ancient Burials with Funeral Flowers
Dr. Ralph Solecki wrote extensively about his finds during his famous excavation in a cave in Northern Iraq back in 1951. He and his team uncovered pollen and flower fragments from multiple species of wildflowers placed around what turned out to be ancient burial sites. It was later determined that these sites were from around 62,000 B.C. Soil samples suggest that these flower fragments, which included thistles and hollyhocks, had originally been placed on the site of an ancient burial, marking them as the first flowers known to have been used for a funeral some 64,000 years ago! Four separate bodies lying together in a “unique assemblage” were unearthed in the cave surrounded by pollen fragments embedded in the surrounding soil. This discovery is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest known form of human burial ritual.
More recently, just a mere 400 years ago this time, records show that cemeteries were often decorated for specific religious festivals such as Easter and Christmas. Today, funeral flowers are sent for a number of different reasons. It can be so difficult for friends of those mourning a death to put their feelings into words and flowers can act as an unspoken expression of love, comfort, sympathy and respect. They are a way of expressing that the bereaved person is in our thoughts. Flowers also create a backdrop of warmth and beauty, softening the desolate scene of the coffin on a catafalque. The beauty of the floral display helps to balance the dark sorrow of death, part of the process that wills us to come to terms with our loss.
Funeral Flower Symbolism
Flowers also symbolise the cycle from birth through to death. The fact that the flowers usually regenerate gives us a subliminal message of hope that somewhere and somehow, we continue to exist. So flowers represent not only love and sympathy, but also eternity and immortality. The life of the person can be represented by the fragility of a flower, where care and nurture are necessary so they are able to flourish and thrive.
Photo credit: e-coffins
Types of Floral Tributes at Funerals
Floral tributes come in many forms and as with everything else, there are trends that tend to be followed. During the last few years the focus has been for more natural, cottage garden style flowers and tributes. It is very common nowadays for people to lean towards eco-friendly displays; for example, having a natural tied sheaf using biodegradable products to avoid plastic and oasis. For some years, donations to a chosen charity have proved to be an increasingly popular choice, the idea being that the money donated lasts longer and has a more practical value than floral tributes.
For funerals local to Chichester, where flowers are desired, I always look to the florist at Manor Nurseries, Runcton, for advice and expertise. The florists themselves are so dedicated to providing exactly what you want and they have boundless knowledge of appropriate funeral flowers and plants. I have always found their floral tributes to be top-notch and some of the best value I have found.