Why do black people wear white to funerals? Traditionally, black people wear black to funerals to mourn the death of their loved ones. But when blacks wear white to funerals, it is a sign of thanksgiving for a life well-lived. This often happens when the deceased is aged 8 decades or older and lived a life worth celebrating.
Many cultures, including black ones, associate white with happiness. You’ll see black people wearing white at weddings, thanksgiving services, birthday celebrations, and major milestones, especially in Africa.
It will leave you wondering why anyone would wear white to a funeral. “Why are they celebrating the death of a loved one?” Mostly, black people wear white to funerals to celebrate the life of the deceased.
Long life may not be gracious to others, but living healthy for eight decades or more deserves gratitude, which is why most black people wear white to funerals to acknowledge a life well lived.
In Ghana, however, when an expecting mother dies with her unborn child, or during labor, the family and all sympathizers wear white not to celebrate but to bid her and her child farewell in peace.
In their view, wearing white symbolizes a peaceful transition to the afterlife and calms the dead.
What does wearing white to a funeral mean in other cultures?
Some cultures around the world wear white to funerals. While among blacks it is a sign of thanksgiving and a life well lived, it symbolizes purity and rebirth and among others a sign of respect in other cultures.
Let’s take a look at the details.
1. Purity and rebirth
For many centuries and in many parts of the world, white has been the symbol of purity. White, as a sign of innocence and purity, is commonly used to distinguish the presence of youth at a funeral, whether as the deceased, a mourner, or a participant.
In Eastern Asia, many people wear white mourning clothing to symbolise purity and regeneration.
The official religion in Cambodia is Buddhism, a faith that holds that after someone dies, they are reincarnated in a cycle of life. The family of a deceased person wears white mourning clothing in the expectation that their loved ones may be reborn.
White mourning, also known as deuil blanc in French, originated in the 16th century when grieving children and unmarried women wore white.
This became a norm for France’s ruling monarchs, and Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-87) followed suit after losing three immediate family members within 18 months.
When a lady loses her husband, she mourns by wearing white. The thickness of the fabric, worn over a grieving phase that may last anywhere from a week to six months, could indicate the depth of the widow’s sorrow.
Before her death in 1901, Queen Victoria set extremely specific instructions on how she wanted white to be used at her burial. She not only wore her white wedding veil over her face, but she also wanted white horses and a white drape over her coffin.
In other cultures, the family does not cook on the day of the death, thus close family and friends would normally offer food for the bereaved family. The color of mourning is white clothing with the color of purity, and many people will wear white throughout the grieving period.
Meanwhile, the color white is associated with death in China, as in many Asian cultures. If you find yourself in China, avoid wearing red to a funeral, as it symbolizes happiness and good fortune in Chinese culture; As such, red is the traditional color of the Chinese during Chinese New Year and Chinese weddings.
What are the different forms of white attire for funerals?
Blacks wearing white to funerals come in different forms. Depending on the culture or demographic, some will prefer to wear all-white or white with stripes of black in the cloth or material.
What color represents grief in the black community?
Black. In the west, wearing dark colors during mourning has been strongly associated with death and loss since Roman times. In the early 1900s, mourning brooches and mourning rings made from a polished stone called jet were particularly popular.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why do people wear white when someone dies?
Purity and rebirth. Worn throughout a grieving period that could last anywhere from a week to six months, the thickness of the plaster could represent the depth of the widow’s sorrow. The family of someone who dies wears white in the mourning process in the hope that their loved ones are reborn again.
Is it disrespectful to wear color to a funeral?
You should never wear bright colors to a funeral. Primary colors like blues, reds, and yellows may come off as offensive or disrespectful. Red, in some cultures, is seen as a sign of celebration. It’s particularly important to avoid red colors in some cultures, although Africa uses red in mourning.
Is purple associated with death?
Because purple dye was historically expensive to produce, it is often associated with wealth. In Western cultures: Purple represents royalty, wealth, and fame. However, in some parts of Europe, it’s associated with death. Latin America and South America: In Brazil, purple indicates mourning or death.
What color should you not wear to a funeral?
It’s generally acceptable to wear non-black clothing, such as dark blue or grey. Stick with subdued colors and fabric textures so that you don’t pull attention away from the person who is being honored. If the person is not black, or not of African descent, avoid red, bright pink, orange, yellow, or other bright colors.
What does “white” mean in the Buddhist religion?
Buddhists wear white to funerals as a symbol of mourning and respect for the deceased person. Believing that the first three days should be a period of positivity so that the deceased can transition from life to die peacefully, Buddhists prefer to mourn in white.
Why do you never see a Chinese funeral?
According to Chinese custom, the elderly should never show respect to someone younger. If an infant or child dies, no funeral rites are performed either, since respect cannot be shown to a younger person. The child is thus buried in silence.
What does wearing black to a funeral mean?
Funerals are usually somber occasions, and wearing black indicates that you’re mourning the loss of someone. It’s also considered a sign of respect for the deceased. The ancient Romans would wear a dark toga, known as a toga pulla, to mourn the loss of a loved one.
How long should you wear black after death?
There was a time when wearing black after death was simply what was done. It was the proper etiquette. A widow would wear a full-length black dress, often for a full year. Black armbands were commonly worn for 6 months following the death of a parent or spouse.
Can you wear a black and white dress to a funeral?
Because a funeral is a somber occasion, it is best to dress in conservative colors and styles. You don’t have to wear all black, but it is acceptable to do so.
What does “purple” mean at a funeral?
Purple at a funeral practiced by the people of Brazil, for example, represents dignity, and elegance, and is often chosen for the funeral services of grandparents.
Do people still wear black to funerals?
Black is still a safe choice for funerals. Most funerals are somber events, which align well with darker colors. Wearing bright colors at a funeral can make you look like you’re celebrating or trying to be too festive for the occasion.
Now it’s your turn.
Wearing black could mean different things in various cultures. Among black people, wearing white to a funeral symbolizes celebrations of a life well-lived.
Is this the same in your culture too? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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