About Chrysanthemums, and the Importance of Symbols

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 they were, 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 the 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 an expression of thanks, appreciation, love and sometimes just because.  Giving chrysanthemums in that context is always seen 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 to New Orleans, where the custom is the same as in Europe.  They are even the 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.  The color black as an expression of mourning originated in the 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. https://www.lovetoknow.com/home/garden/meaning-symbolism-different-color-chrysanthemums

How we are different!

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


  • 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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