Colors of Mourning

by T-Knox

White is also the color of mourning in Ethiopia. This funeral took place in Yeha, a town in northern Ethiopia.

As there are many beliefs when it comes to mourning, the colors of mourning are just as vibrant.

Black: At Japanese and Buddhist services many will attend in black attire. Bright colors, like reds are inappropriate for any mourning occasion. However, you may wear a string of white pearls.

Throughout Europe wearing black is tradition. This custom is derived from the Roman Empire. Although the color black is recognized throughout the west as a color of mourning, around the world black is associated with evil and mystery. Perhaps it is our subconscious inclination that death is evil, and the tradition of wearing black to funerals resonates today. On the contrary people are less persistent when it comes to wearing black at a funeral. Funeral traditions are not as bound and there is freedom when it comes to remembrance. For some people black is seen as too somber for the event, and they want to liven the mood of the service by wearing brighter colors.

Widows may wear black for the rest of their lives. Predominantly in Russia, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Portugal and Spain this is practised. For some time after the death family will wear black, for as long as two years. This followed by people who have immigrated to the United Staes as well.

White: China holds a spectrum of colors when it comes to mourning. At the burial, people who attend the funeral may be given a white towel to wipe away any perspiration. The white is a sign of thanks. Following the funeral everyone who attended must burn the clothes they wore to the service. This precaution is taken to prevent bad luck connected with the death. During the period of mourning family of the deceased wears a piece of cloth on their arm for 100 days. A color of the cloth tells the relationship to the deceased. The children of the deceased will wear a black cloth, blue by the grandchildren, and green by the great grandchildren. Families that hold tight to tradition may wear the cloth for nearly three years following the death in the family. Seven days after the death, the departed’s spirit is believed to return home. So the spirit does not get lost the family will place a red plaque outside of their home. At the wake, no one may wear anything red, as red is a color of happiness.

Besides black clothing, in medieval Europe royalty would also wear white. Moreover at a Hindu funeral everyone wears white clothing. However, in India brown is also a color of mourning. White is a color of mourning as it is also the color of purity. Many will wear white throughout the mourning period. Widows in India are permitted to only wearing white for the rest of their lives. White is also the signature color scheme at any funeral. Despite how Western society interprets white, most of the Eastern world shares the same meaning of white.

In Korea and the Middle East it is the norm that white symbolizes time of mourning and funerals. It is an interesting predicament that theorists find white relays the message of clarity. It could be thought that once someone has passed away there may be clarity in the peoples’ lives, or lack there of. Black remains identified with death and mourning.

Yellow: Black and white are not the only colors associated with mourning. In Egypt yellow is the color of mourning. Egyptians saw the sun and gold were yellow in color and had lasting qualities. Masks of mummies and tombs were often painted gold. This was good sentiment to send the deceased into the afterlife. Mexico and Ethiopia’s color of mourning is yellow as well.

Blue: Whereas in Korea blue is their color of mourning, countering Western culture’s meaning of depression and sadness.

Purple: In Thailand widows will wear purple when mourning the death of their spouse. Purple was carried out as a mourning colour in Brazil as well, alongside black dress. It is considered bad taste when one wears purple when not attending a funeral or related service. Similarly for many Catholics purple shares the same meaning.

Grey: Women in Papua New Guinea are covered in a light clay from head to toe when mourning the loss of her husband. Derived from this practise it has been said that the country’s mourning color is grey, the color of the clay.

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