© 2004 Bobette Bryan
What color comes to mind when you think of
death? What color should you wear to a funeral? Well, it depends on where
you live. Americans have traditionally used black to
symbolize death and grief, a tradition
brought to these shores from Europe. In the Victorian era, people
routinely hung a black wreath on the door at the time of a loved
one's death to symbolize the loss. Widows in mourning would wear
black for months on end. If a widow dared to defy this custom, her reputation
would surely be ruined.
However, in recent years, Americans have tossed the color of
those widow weeds aside and now, just about
any color is acceptable to wear to a funeral. The most important
issue when it comes to dressing for a funeral is that the clothes
worn are tasteful. Likewise, nowadays, hearses come in a variety
of colors. No longer are they the staid, dire black of yesterday, and many
funeral homes use white exclusively for their funerary vehicles.|
Surprisingly, black has never represented death or grief
in China. The Chinese, and other Asian countries, have traditionally
depicted death with white and still wear white to funerals.
Why white? Because white depicts the pallor
of someone who's ill, and, of course, the color of the corpse. It also
symbolizes the color of bones, an important factor since the
Chinese generally cremate their deceased. Black, on the other hand,
was used in Europe because it symbolizes the absence of
light--the stillness of the nighttime--the unknown.
However, Americans and Europeans have also used
white for tombstones which are often decorated with ornamental
white doves representing eternal peace.
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