Before actually attending the funeral my parents made sure everything I was wearing was black. I made a mistake of wearing a red bracelet and my parents scolded me. As I took off bracelet, I asked my parents why I couldn’t wear a red bracelet and they said it was because the color red was associated with happiness and celebrations. I understood immediately because we recently celebrated what I considered the happiest time of the year, Chinese New Year, which prominately uses red. So it would have been disrespectful to wear red during the funeral. Many Western cultures “dictate that funeral grieving attendees avoid color altogether and opt for the lowest value, black” (Hirschman). So even across different places black is considered a mourning color for many cultures.
However, the appropriateness of these grieving colors varies for different cultures and religions. Yellow, a color that most people in Western societies equate with happiness has a different meaning to Egyptians. They used this color in the masks of mummies and tombs under the belief that yellow was associated with gold, which was considered to be imperishable, eternal and indestructible (Douma). This was done in hopes that the deceased loved one would have a long comfortable afterlife. In Iran the color blue is perceived as a mourning color because it is symbolic of heaven and spirituality (“Cultural Color”). Heaven and spirituality are often associated with life after death. Despite the fact that these two cultures don’t use the same color to represent the afterlife they are still able to share common ground. These symbolisms all relate to life after death which is seen in my culture and more notably, Egyptians.
Colors also play a significant role in the types of flowers that are used in funerals. White chrysanthemums were used in my grandparent’s funerals because they are “are symbolic of lamentation and grief” (Symbolic). I noticed in the other Chinese funerals that I’ve been to that many grieving friends and family members brought wreaths of white chrysanthemums as a sign of respect and sorrow. Whereas in Catholic funerals different colored carnations have different meanings. A red one may symbolize admiration, whereas a pink and a white one may stand for remembrance and purity, respectively (Stewart).
My grandparents were ultimately cremated which is a common burial practice that is used across many religions and cultures. This was done solely so that they could have one final journey to their homeland China. However, other cultures and religions cremate bodies due to their beliefs. Cambodians cremate the bodies of their deceased loved ones under the belief that “cremation allows the soul to part away from the body and to go to hell or heaven in order to wait for reincarnation” (Mony). Hindus also cremate bodies because they “believe that for the soul to be reincarnated properly, it must be completely detached from the body and the material world” (Taylor).