Why do people wear black for funerals? – Creston Valley Advance

By Jason Meidl, Funeral Director at Creston Valley Funeral Services

Summer is finished. Today as I write this I look at the beautiful colors that are a hallmark of the Creston Valley. We always know when summer said goodbye when we see the colors of fall line our streets. We often associate color with how we feel and grief or the funeral process is no different. Traditionally, the color of mourning and funerals is black.

“Why do people wear black for funerals?” “- Rob

Wearing black at a funeral is a long-standing tradition in many parts of the world, particularly in Canada and the United States. Funerals are usually dark occasions, and wearing black is a sign that you are mourning the loss of someone. It is also considered a sign of respect for the deceased. Historians believe that the tradition of wearing black at funerals dates back at least to the time of the Roman Empire. The ancient Romans wore a dark toga, known as a toga pulla, to mourn the loss of a loved one. Many of these customs were passed down from the English predecessors. Historians note that Queen Victoria was known to wear black at funerals to show the dignity and respect of those in mourning. While black is the traditional color of mourning in Western countries, many other countries around the world have different customs. In India and China, for example, the traditional color of mourning is white. Indian Hindus wear white because it is the color of purity. Countries in Asia and Africa have a wide variety of customary funeral colors. In South Africa and Ghana, red is often worn at funerals. You can also find countries that wear purple (Thailand), yellow (Myanmar), and blue (Iran).

“What should I do when I see a funeral procession?” “- Karen

I’ll start with what a funeral procession is. Traditionally, families ride in line or procession behind the hearse. In some cases that can mean a lead vehicle, followed by the hearse, then sometimes a limousine carrying family members or porters, and other variations of that. Most funeral vehicles have flashing purple lights and magnetic purple flags that go over the rest of the vehicles in the procession. As someone who leads funeral processions, I always try to do my best to keep the vehicles together in the procession without breaking the rules of the road. Laws vary from province to province, but, in general, you are expected to follow standard rules of the road when encountering a funeral procession. In Manitoba, the drivers of a funeral procession can pass a red light or stop sign with caution. In British Columbia, the law says they should not obstruct traffic. Prince Edward Island is the only province that requires drivers to stop for a procession. I often see vehicles pulling off the road when they see us coming in to show respect, and I have sometimes seen people stop walking, take off their hats and wait for us to pass. Now, I’ll be honest, that’s not the norm. More often than not, people go by at full speed or even try to turn into a procession itself. None of this is inherently illegal, but I would recommend and encourage people to take that extra time to honor the person who is carried in the procession. It could be you someday. I have had experiences with motorists that have dismayed me. On a recent service I had the hearse ready to go and I was just waiting for the rest of the procession to come behind and for a vehicle to pass in front of us honking our horns and yelling names. This is certainly not the proper etiquette of the funeral procession.

Interesting fact

In today’s world, we have ridesharing apps like Lyft and Uber. In medieval times, they shared the coffin. Many parish churches had community coffins, which could be borrowed or rented to transport the deceased from the house to the cemetery. When they arrived at the tomb, the body was removed from the coffin and buried in a simple shroud.

Keep asking your questions at [email protected]!

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