The History of Floral Arrangements at Funerals

Flower arrangements help people express their love, respect, and appreciation for someone who has passed away. It is often difficult to find the right words to express feelings during a very difficult time. Many phrases and expressions of grief have been used so often that they begin to sound cliche. Funerary floral arrangements are a beautiful way to let a grieving family know their loved one will be missed by many.

Unique flower arrangements, designed at the request of someone far away and unable to attend the funeral, can be delivered the same day. Bringing or sending flowers to a funeral is a burial rite that archaeologists believe began thousands of years ago.

Ancient burial sites

Burial sites dating back to at least 60,000 BC have been found with flowers around the human remains. Smithsonian anthropologist Ralph Solecki found fragments of flowers while excavating the burial sites of adult and infant Neanderthals in Northern Iraq. Dr. Solecki's research of the Shandir Cave in 1951 changed the perception modern scientists have of Neanderthals. These ancient burials are believed to be the first time flowers were used in such manner.

They also served a practical purpose

Prior to the development of modern embalming methods, funerary floral arrangements placed around the deceased helped mask the smell of decomposition. Though bringing flowers to burial services may have begun for a purpose of which they are no longer needed, the tradition has continued for thousands of years because they eloquently make a powerful statement of sympathy, love, and support.

Used by people around the world

The Egyptians decorated tombs with flowers in 2500 BC and the Roman politician and lawyer, Cicero, (106 BC - 43 BC) said the tradition of planting flowers at tombs was to purify the ground and help the deceased rest. Funerary floral arrangements are used in both religious and non-religious ceremonies. Flowers are typically not sent to grieving Jewish families because flowers are considered a reminder of the life now ended.

The tradition of sending flowers is likely to continue for many more years. The phrase "in lieu of flowers..." discourages any gifts or flowers. To simply offer more options, "Flowers welcome or contributions may be made to..." is more appropriate wording for announcements.