Sympathy and Funeral Flowers: Traditions by Culture and Faith

Losing our family and friends in death delivers a devastating blow that can leave us overwhelmed for a while.  The sympathy and understanding from friends, colleagues, and family, like a soothing balm, slowly makes us recover to a point we can move on with our lives again.  Placing ourselves in the shoes of others who have lost loved ones makes it easier to offer sympathy at the right time.  

Some people offer their sympathy by sending flowers to bereaved families or funeral homes.  However, depending on the cultures or faith of the bereaved family, the flowers presented can convey different meanings or messages. Varying funeral traditions influence each culture and religion.  To console the grieving family and not deliver the wrong or offensive message, it is vital to understand the meanings of sympathy and funeral flowers in different cultures.

Guidelines To Help You Respect Funeral Traditions by Cultures and Faith 

1. Jewish Tradition

According to the Jewish funeral tradition, burials usually occur within 24 hours of losing their loved one in death.  During this time, family members of the deceased meet and observe the funeral privately.  The Jewish mourners participate in sitting shiva for up to seven days.  Friends and relatives avoid sending flowers to a bereaved Jewish shiva home or the funeral home during the shiva period, as per the Jewish tradition.  Instead, they send kosher food baskets, fruits, and beverages.  Jewish communities rarely follow the practice of sending flowers to their fellow bereaved friends, families, or relatives.

2. Asian Tradition

Asian funeral traditions vary by geographical location and the bereaved family’s faith.  Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, a minority of Christians, and other religious believers make up the Asian culture.   Are you unsure what kind of flowers to send out to an Asian bereaved family?  Ask the bereaved family’s friends and relatives about the family’s faith and tradition.  The information you get will go a long way to send an appropriate gift, either sympathy and funeral flowers or another present.  As a general rule, avoid sending red flowers for Asian funerals.  Red symbolizes good fortune, life, joy, and happiness in Asian cultures.

  • Chinese Culture

Modern-day Chinese families observe traditional mourning periods of 49 days and may hold lavish funerals depending on the family status. In Chinese culture, friends and relatives send sympathy and funeral flowers.  However, if you mistakenly overlook what the flower symbolizes, you could send the wrong message to the mourning family.  Red and pink flowers represent life, luck, and celebration, and thus avoid sending these as funeral flowers.  For the Chinese, white represents death.   White or yellow chrysanthemums and lilies are traditional sympathies and funeral flowers.

  • Japanese Culture

In Japanese culture, sending sympathy flowers is not the norm and may be considered inappropriate. However, a suitable gift is a ‘Hanawa,’ a large funeral wreath.  Use white and yellow lilies and chrysanthemum flowers to create the Hanawa.  In Japanese culture, another proper funeral gift is sending a koden, a monetary envelope to help the bereaved family with the funeral expenses.

  • Hindu 

Hindu funerals usually occur within one day or sometimes two days after death.  It is not appropriate to bring or send flowers during this time.  The family makes arrangements for flowers placed inside the casket. In the Hindu culture, flowers that have no specific meaning are not traditional sympathy gifts.  You can send flowers to the bereaved family after the funeral as an expression of sympathy and honor to the family. 

  • Muslim 

In Muslim funerals, sending simple sympathy flowers to the bereaved family may be acceptable depending on the family’s Muslim sect.  A fruit basket is more appropriate during the mourning period.

  • Christian 

Typically, flowers are a welcome sympathy and funeral gift.  These flowers sent to the bereaved family’s home, a funeral home, or church symbolize condolence to the bereaved family.  It’s normal to see flowers at a funeral service.  Any kind of flower is acceptable.

To Send or Not to Send?


The foremost thought to keep in mind is your wish to offer sympathy and comfort to the bereaved family and not to offend them.  Arming yourself with the dos and don’ts of sending sympathy and funeral flowers is essential.  If a particular culture does not deem sympathy and funeral flowers appropriate, find out from the family’s relatives and friends what other gifts you can send.