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Cultural Diversity in Funerals

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01Nov 2021

Cultural Diversity in Funerals

Funeral Ceremonies and Cultural Diversity

Attending the funeral of a colleague, friend, or distant family member may present certain problems if you aren’t familiar with the deceased’s culture and religious customs. Avoiding disrespecting the family is paramount at any funeral, which is why it is important to know as much as possible about the funeral traditions and customs of the deceased. Discover the diverse beliefs and customs of some of the world’s most prominent religions with our guide. This includes customs regarding flower delivery, the importance of flowers in certain religions, and knowing when to have flowers delivered.

Flowers and burial customs

In many religions, such as Buddhism, Judaism, and Hinduism, it is customary to bury the deceased as soon as possible. This could present problems for those attending funerals at short notice, especially those that want to show their respect by gifting funeral flowers. However, many religions that bury their dead quickly (including Judaism, and Hinduism) do not want mourners to gift flowers at this time. Although mourners shouldn’t bring flowers to a Hindu funeral, flowers play an important part in the funeral ceremony. The family of the deceased will adorn the body of the deceased with flowers and with Tulsi leaves, a plant that belongs to the same family as basil and mint. During the mourning period after the cremation, the flowers will also be draped over a photograph of the deceased.

Although flowers may be gifted before the funeral service at Buddhist ceremonies, it is best to check with the family that this will be appropriate. It is also important to note that although white flowers are the ideal choice of colour for Buddhist funeral flowers, red flowers are a definite no-no.
A Jewish funeral does not include flowers from mourners and these should be sent as sympathy flowers after the ceremony and after the period of mourning.

At Chinese funerals, although if it is a Buddhist ceremony and mourners shouldn’t gift flowers, there will be flowers present. The custom is for mourners to be given flowers to toss into the grave. Family members will also toss ribbons, armbands, and veils into the grave. Immediately after this, everyone will leave the graveside as it is considered bad form to stay any longer at the graveside.

When to send flowers for a funeral in different cultures

Experienced florists should be able to assist with the selection of funeral flowers, and should also know when it is appropriate to do so. In Christian cultures, flowers are usually included at funerals, unless the family ask them not to be. If the funeral is at short notice, choose same day flower delivery or next day flower delivery to ensure the flowers arrive at the funeral home on time. Flowers should not be brought to the funeral venue as they will need to be organised by the funeral directors before the ceremony commences.

In Judaism, there is a period of mourning after the funeral known as shiva, and it is considered disrespectful to send flowers during this time as it is seen as disrupting the mourning process. Should you wish to show your respects, send a fruit basket or potted plant a few weeks after the funeral. Flowers by post can be considered around a month after the mourning period has ended. Flower delivery shouldn’t be considered before this time.

When attending a funeral for which the customs are not known to you, it is important to research the culture, and religion of the deceased and their family. If in doubt, ask the family directly in a respectful way, or contact the local religious leader or representative of the faith involved.