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Why do people actually wear black at funerals?

At the funeral service, the deceased is to be paid his last respects. The dress code also plays a role here – people usually wear black at a funeral. But why is that actually the case?

Even if there is no explicit regulation in Germany for the clothing at funerals or mourning ceremonies, a certain guideline for mourning clothing has been established over the centuries: At the funeral, predominantly black or at least very dark clothing is worn. Men usually go for the black suit with black tie and black shoes, women for the black two-piece or dress. But where does this unwritten dress code come from?

Why is black considered the color of mourning?

Christian color symbolism

The color black has always stood for mourning and earthly death. This is mainly due to Christian color symbolism, as in the 6th century, Benedictine monks dressed in black to reflect the spiritual darkness of the soul. Since the 14th century, black has been commonly regarded as a color of mourning and has been worn on appropriate occasions ever since.

Black as the color of prosperity

Black is not only considered a color of mourning because of religious motives. For a long time, black clothing was expensive and correspondingly valuable because it was colored. Untreated gray or beige fabrics, on the other hand, were less expensive. Therefore, in order to dress solemnly and in honor of the deceased, people resorted to black clothing on the day of the funeral.

Queen Victoria established black as a mourning color

Queen Elizabeth finally established black as a mourning color in 1861. After the death of her husband Prince Albert, she decided to wear only black – and thus laid the foundation for a mourning tradition. Widows should wear black for at least one year after the death of their husband. The color also acted as a kind of defense mechanism, because it meant that women were off-limits to any possible suitor.

The mourning dress code today

To this day, the dress code for funerals is black, although exceptions in the form of dark colors such as blue, brown or gray are permitted. In addition, there is no longer an obligation for the bereaved to wear black even after the funeral service.

But there is another way: Some people wish for colorful outfits instead of black mourning clothes for their own funeral before they pass away. Often the thought is to make their loss a little more bearable by wearing fresher clothes.

In other countries, white is considered the color of mourning.

In Buddhism and Hinduism, white is the color of mourning. The color signifies the absence of something or someone. Even in Northern Germany, white was worn during mourning until the 20th century. The color was considered a sign of hope and resurrection. To this day, the deceased are also dressed in white at a church funeral, as a sign of life after death.