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Interfaith Etiquette for Funeral Flowers

Interfaith Etiquette for Funeral Flowers

Funeral traditions vary for each culture and faith. Here are some general guidelines to help. If in in doubt, check with local religious leaders, close friends, or family members, too.

Asian Culture
Red is generally considered a happy color, so it should NOT be included in flower arrangements sent to honor the deceased or to the grieving family. White and yellow are appropriate colors for most Asian funerals, and chrysanthemums are the traditional flower of grief in most Asian countries. Flowers and food are often placed near the casket during the funeral service. A donation box is often there, too, to help with the family's expenses. Cremation is rare, and mourning can take anywhere from seven to 49 days. Services are usually held in a family home, and guests sit away from the family to show respect. Mourners may light incense and bow to the family. At the gravesite, mourners normally face away from the casket until it is placed in the ground. The immediate family typically wears white, and other family members may wear other traditional colors. Guests should usually wear dark colors, but because there are so many different Asian traditions, it is wise to check with a close family friend about appropriate attire and protocol.

Baha'i
Burial should take place within a one-hour drive from the place where death occurs. Flowers are appropriate.

Buddhist
While flowers are usually appropriate, it is best to confirm this with the family or funeral home, as family practices can vary. White flowers are traditional. Sending red flowers or food to the family is generally NOT appropriate. Most Buddhist funerals take place in a funeral home -- not a temple. You may visit the family after the services, but it is often considered poor etiquette to do so before. At the service, the family typically wears white and other mourners wear black or dark colors. It is customary to greet the family members and then approach the casket and bow. A financial donation may also be made to the family at this time. Services are normally conducted by a monk. Mourners bow toward the casket to show respect for the lessons of mortality or impermanence.

Catholic
Flowers are usually welcome and appreciated and may be sent to the funeral home, church, or family home. For deliveries to the church, please confirm details with the parish, as practices may vary with regard to where flowers may be displayed. Before the funeral service, there is often a vigil or wake where candles and flowers are present. Flowers are also usually present at the service and burial. A requiem or funeral mass is normally performed by a priest, where it is customary to light a candle to honor the deceased. After the mass, mourners may gather elsewhere to share food and drink furnished by family or friends. Other expressions of sympathy may include a donation, personal card, or memento of faith, such as a small angel statue or cross.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Mormons
Floral expressions can be sent to the services or to the family home. Most floral tributes are encouraged and appropriate, except flower arrangements with a cross or crucifix, as Mormons emphasize the resurrection of Christ. Services are held within one week of passing and may take place at a church, funeral home, or gravesite -- but not normally in the temple. A bishop usually conducts the service, after which mourners often gather at the gravesite. It is customary and appropriate to visit the family at home, especially during the days following the funeral.

Eastern Orthodox
During the period before burial (three days after death), flowers may be sent to the funeral home. There is often an emphasis on white flowers. Some placement restrictions may apply. Those unable to attend the funeral may send flowers to the funeral home or the family home.

Hindu
Hindus may hold a service at a funeral home before the sun goes down on the day of the death, and cremation usually takes place within 24 hours of passing. Services are normally conducted by a priest and family members. Flowers may be sent, but doing so is not part of the Hindu tradition. Instead, the family typically arranges for floral garlands and sprays of flowers to be placed in the casket. During the service, mourners are expected to view the body but normally should not speak to the grieving family. Hindu funeral services are quiet, solemn affairs. Dress in casual white clothing. Traditionally, ten days after the funeral, people gather at the family home for a ceremony to liberate the soul and send it to heaven. Fruit gifts are customary and appropriate at this gathering.

Hispanic Culture
Hispanic culture is closely tied to the Roman Catholic faith and, therefore, generally follows its traditions. Flower arrangements, wreathes, and plants are appropriate gifts to send to the funeral home, church, or the family home. Sometimes mourners place personal items in the casket to make the spirit more comfortable in the afterlife. A mass is normally conducted by a priest, after which friends and family members often gather at a home for a feast to honor the deceased and comfort each other.

Islamic (Muslim)
Opinion varies as to the appropriateness of sending flowers. Some say the Islamic emphasis on simplicity makes gifts of flowers unsuitable. Others say sending flowers is appropriate. So, seek the opinion of a local religious leader or the family. If flowers are welcome, roses and other fragrant varieties are especially popular. Palm branches, other greens, or individual flowers are also often placed on the grave. Internment takes place as soon as possible, and services are typically held at the mosque, usually in a prayer room or courtyard. There usually is no viewing of the body or visitation, and cremation is not allowed in the Muslim faith. Gravesite services are traditionally only attended by men. After the services, it is customary for mourners to visit the family home and bring food and drink. Family and friends typically provide nutrition to the immediate family for at least three days. So, a fruit basket or similar gift to the home is appropriate during that time. Dress modestly in light or medium colors. Arms and legs should be covered. Jewelry or anything "flashy" is inappropriate and may be considered an insult to the family.

Jewish
Burial usually takes place within 24 hours of death. So, sending flowers to the funeral home or burial site is not normally done. Instead, fruit and food baskets are traditionally sent to the home during the seven-day mourning period, or Shiva, following the funeral. During this time, it is customary for relatives and friends to call on the family at home and bring a food basket of Kosher items, fruit, deserts, or beverages. This is known as a "Shiva call." Some friends may choose to send flowers to bereaved family members at home during this period, as well. It is also becoming more common to see some floral decorations sent to adorn the synagogue foyer for the service. These newer traditions, however, are generally NOT practiced among Orthodox Jews. The service is conducted by a rabbi. Acceptable attire for a Jewish funeral is dark clothing. Men wear a head covering called a yarmulke, which may be provided by the funeral home.

Protestant Christian Faiths
Floral expressions of all kinds are usually welcome at the funeral, memorial service, or family home. Of course, individual churches may have their own limitations on placement. Attending the funeral and/or memorial service is customary. Other appropriate expressions of sympathy include a charitable donation, personal card, or bringing food to the family at home. Services typically center on celebrating the life of the deceased and faith in the afterlife. They are usually conducted by a minister but often include other persons close to the deceased. Dress as you would to attend church services. Although many people still wear black or dark clothing, it is not required.

For additional information, see About Sympathy Flowers and Funeral Flowers Advice.


Sources: American Floral Services and Teleflora.

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