The history of funeral flowersMay 2018
The use of flowers, or their presence at a funeral, has been a practice adopted for many centuries. Perhaps even longer; there are suggestions that soil samples from a grave site dating from Neanderthal times, found in caves in Iran support the idea that the bodies were surrounded by plants or flowers.
Why do people bring flowers to a funeral?
Perhaps the most basic, if not pleasant reason for the use of flowers at funerals, was due to the lack of effective embalming processes. Highly perfumed flowers were often a vital part of the service to avoid unpleasant odours permeating the location. This was noted by historians especially at the funeral of US President Andrew Jackson, where they were much needed.
Moving forward in history, there is also a suggestion that flowers were used to express emotions that would not otherwise be encouraged or permitted. An example of this would be Victorian times in the United Kingdom. It's fair to say that this was, by and large, an emotionally repressed society.
Therefore, outbursts of emotion, even at funerals, were not welcomed; it's also reasonable to note that, thanks to their upbringings, many people were simply not capable of expressing such raw emotion verbally.
Flowers express feelings and emotion
Therefore, floral tributes became an acceptable way of showing feelings of loss. It's fair to say that, although much less than before, there are still elements of this in the use of funeral flowers to this day. Their popularity is also probably tied to some of the 'floral' hymns or poetry created in the early part of the 20th century onwards.
C Austin Miles' famous funeral hymn 'In the Garden', it's most famous lines being... 'And he walks with me, and he talks with me...' is a striking example. An excerpt from a popular poem by Dorothy Frances Gurney: 'One is nearer God's heart in a garden, than anywhere else on earth' is also much quoted.
Flowers helps in the grieving process
In recent times, families have often used floral tributes to spell out names or simple messages, identifying and treasuring the deceased. The response by the bereaved to floral tributes from others must also have played a major part in their enduring popularity.
How often do you see family members and close friends lingering for quite a time among the flowers at a graveside, reading the cards and admiring the floral presentations? Therefore, this tribute can also form a tiny part of the grieving process, offering a tangible tribute to those lost.