Why Do We Wear Black to a Funeral?
July 6, 2018
Why do we wear black to a funeral? Hundreds of years ago the dress code to wear black.
It was so easy – you simply wore black. And so everyone knew you were there to pay your last respects to the deceased. In the 1800s, if you were in mourning or attending a funeral and you were not in black mourning clothing, you were an oddity.
Where did the wearing of black clothing to a funeral come from? And why has this trend continued right up to the 21st century? What about other cultures around the world?
Why do we Wear black to a Funeral?
Wearing black mourning clothes in the Western world dates back to the days of the Roman Empire. The family of the deceased wore a toga in dark colours. This was called a toga pulla. This became traditional, continuing in England right though medieval times.
Women wore black veils and caps on the passing of their husbands. In fact, wearing other colours was a slap in the face to mourning family members.
In continental Europe, widows who were in deep mourning wore white and this tradition prevailed for many years in Spain through a good deal of the 1500s. Even the French queens wore white while in mourning before the Revolution.
Purple or Grey Meant half Mourning to Some
During the Victorian era in England, women mourned for up to four years There was a period during this time called “half mourning”. This was the year after being widowed, and in this time, the mourning woman would be able to include some purple or grey colours into their wardrobe.
In the USA and the UK, funeral customs were much the same, but because the customs and traditions spread so rapidly across the Atlantic, many department stores started opening up specific mourning sections to cope with the demand. Today, these traditions still prevail in the US and Western Europe. Other cultures and the non-western religions have naturally carried on and maintained their traditions, and some of these include vibrant colours of mourning.
Differing countries, different colours
On the continent of Africa with its vast array of different cultures and traditions, one standard colour that has remained intact for mourning is white. In some other countries in Africa, such as South Africa and Ghana and a few others, the traditional mourning colour is red.
In Indian and China, two Asian countries, the traditional colour of mourning is also white. The Hindu in India regard white as the colour of purity and therefore an appropriate colour for a funeral. In China anyone who is over 80 who passes away, to honour them, wearing red is acceptable.
In Thailand, mourners may wear purple. However, in Myanmar which is formerly the country of Burma, yellow is thecolour in which to mourn. Some cultures are gradually even moving away from the wearing of black, considering it not a sad occasion, but a joyous one for the deceased, passing from earth to heaven. So why do we wear black to a Funeral? Now you know!
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* YouTube video on How to dress for a funeral
All info was correct at time of publishing