The rings were made to memorialize death, often featuring skulls, coffins, or crosses.
Funeral flowers Flowers were traditionally used alongside candles in the room during wakes to mask unpleasant smells which we have now avoided thanks to advances in mortuary care; however the deeper meanings behind the tradition have encouraged its continuation.
White lilies remain the most popular flower choice, stemming from their symbolism of the innocence of the soul.
Though considered a distinctly Roman tradition in ancient Britain, the introduction of the word funeral itself into public discourse is credited to acclaimed ‘Father of English Poetry” Geoffrey Chaucer in the 1300s.
The word appears in The Knight’s Tale (the first of The Canterbury Tales), where he talks about the sacred flames from a funeral pyre rising.
How we mourn and grieve in the immediate aftermath of a death remains a central part of how we move on with our lives, from one generation to the next.
We’ve come a long way in the UK in terms of funeral traditions.
The night-long activity was then known as “waking the corpse.” Chapel of rest The funeral director’s private viewing area or “chapel of rest” remains an option in UK burials for those who don’t want to or can’t permit the body to be brought to the home before the funeral.
It was a late Victorian development as attitudes to hygiene and superstition changed and people began to feel more comfortable allowing mourners to visit the dead at a place separate from where they would continue to live.
However the tradition of the wake dates back even further - long before Christianity.
It referred to the period of time before burial, when family and friends would keep a constant vigil over the body as it lay in wait at the home.
The practice originates back to ancient Anglo-Saxon times when Christians held celebrations (wakes) which involved sports, feasts and dancing.