Chrysanthemum and the color of mourning

Yesterday Bonnie brought home two bunches of flowers.  One was her favorite sunflowers.  The other flowers were still in green buds,  not opened yet.  I asked what were they, she said “chrysanthemums”.  I said “what?” , she repeated “chrysanthemums, why do you ask?”.

So I told her about our tradition.  Every year on 1st of November we in Poland celebrate All Saints Day.  It’s a national holiday and families gather at cemeteries and pay respect to deceased.  This is to honor our ancestors, but not always.  Quite often we visit resting places of famous and celebrated people.  We put small lights or candles on the ground and decorate them with flowers.  They always are chrysanthemums , which in Poland are symbols of death and mourning.  Outside cemeteries  there are multiple stands with these flowers and for farmers  All Saints Day is a time for big profits.  Giving flowers is used quite often in Poland as expression of thanks, appreciation, love and sometimes just because.  Giving chrysanthemums in that context is seen always as a bad joke if not an insult.

After listening to this, she said, that here ,in the US, the custom is quite different.  Chrysanthemums are seen as positive and cheerful.  And are quite often used for decorative purposes regardless of the occasion with an exception of New Orleans, where custom is same as in Europe.  They are even official flower of the city of Chicago!  In Australia they are being given to mothers on Mother’s Day.

Then I remember how different cultures express their mourning.  Color black as an expression of mourning originated in Roman Empire.  But this  is by no means universal.  In Chinese and Hindu culture the proper color is white.  So is in Ethiopia.  When visiting Bulgaria I saw a funeral procession dressed in white, but nowhere can find confirmation of my observation.

How we are different!

I see it as fascinating fact and a beauty of life.

2 thoughts on “Chrysanthemum and the color of mourning”

  1. We saw a funeral while in Barbados many many years ago. The ladies were all dressed up in long white dresses and the gentlemen were dressed in tuxedos, some wearing the formal tuxedos with tails, and top hats. At first we thought it was a wedding. Yes, cultures are very different.

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