Why Do we Wear Black to Funerals

A funeral is obviously not an occasion for making bold fashion statements. Wearing tailored black clothing to a funeral is therefore a prudent choice.

But when did the tradition of wearing black to a funeral begin?

The custom of wearing black clothing to a funeral dates back to the Roman Empire. Dark, somber togas were used during the time of mourning.

From the Renaissance era to the 19th century, wearing black while mourning and during the funeral became the norm, particularly with women. Bereaved women and widows wore distinctive black clothes and headdresses. Special jewelry became popular; locks of hair from the departed were kept in lockets or brooches. Widows in rural areas of Latin America and the Mediterranean wear black for the rest of their lives, while family members wear black for extended periods of time.

Different faiths have different beliefs on what to wear during a funeral.

Christians in general wear black to funerals. Violet, white, or black vestments may be worn by priests when officiating masses for the departed.

White, which symbolizes purity, is the color of mourning in Hindu and Buddhist cultures. Most, if not all, will wear white during the funeral.

In old Japan, which practices a mix of Shinto and Buddhist beliefs, white clothes were usually worn during a funeral. Nowadays the men wear a black suit, while the women wear a black dress or kimono.

Islam does not sanction any particular color for funeral attire. Those attending, however, are refrained from wearing ornate jewelry and must be modestly covered, in keeping with Muslim tradition.

The popularity of wearing black to a funeral has since waned. It is still appropriate, though, to attend a funeral in neat and understated clothing. Friends and relatives could also don their regular clothing but wear a black arm band or different colored pins to symbolize their solidarity. More than what you wear, being there at the funeral to provide comfort and assurance is what matters most.

 

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