The funeral customs of Vietnam vary by family, according to that particular family's religion. Each religion in Vietnam has a different view of death. Most of the funeral flower customs among religions in Vietnam are similar; however, a few small differences exist.
In general, Vietnamese families appreciate the gift of flowers on behalf of their deceased loved ones. However, while most families accept flowers, an individual does not necessarily need to give them. The status, relation and general situation of the individual giving the flowers determines the appropriate amount and if any other gifts need to be given as well.
The best species to give depends largely on religion and personal preference. Vietnamese culture in general dictates that white flowers are most appropriate, since white symbolizes the color of death in most religions predominant in Vietnam.
Many Vietnamese customs come from the traditions of Buddhism, the most commonly claimed religion in Vietnam. Buddhist belief teaches that death does not end life, only an individual's current body. Buddhism acknowledges the sadness and grief natural to the death of a loved one, but emphasizes the universality of death in order to ward off self-pity. Funerals take place in a funeral home or, on occasion, in the deceased's home, but not in a temple.
Mourners send floral arrangements before the wake, as in many Western traditions. An individual determines the appropriate arrangement according to his connection to the person who has passed away. Flower arrangements come in the form of casket sprays, wreaths and tributes. VietnameseBuddhist funerals use white or other pale-colored flowers. Examples include chrysanthemums, orchids, carnations and lilies. The white lotus represents complete purification and holds special significance in the Buddhist religion, thereby making it appropriate as well.
Confucianism, another common religion in Vietnam, has many similar funeral customs as far as flowers go. Confucians do not believe in an afterlife, so mourners focus on the deceased's accomplishments and virtues. Due to this emphasis, age matters. An older individual with a large family receives a great deal of respect and gifts. A young, unmarried individual receives far less. Any flower arrangements sent for a child's funeral should not be very elaborate, as this would show more respect than custom allows.
White flowers are considered most appropriate, but flower species does not make much difference. Flowers are draped over the casket.
Taoism, does not have many variations in its funeral flower customs. Taoism, like Confucianism, does not focus on the afterlife, but in general Taoists believe in "the Great Peace," an eventual utopia in which the living and dead will be reunited. Mourners send flowers, along with fruits and certain meats, to the deceased's family at Taoists funerals. No one flower is valued over another, but white flowers are still most appropriate.
Minority religions in Vietnam typically share the flower customs of the predominant religions. Indigenous religions like Cao Dai and Hoa Hao align their funeral customs closely to Buddhist funeral customs. Catholicism, the largest minority religion in Vietnam, and Protestant Christian denominations generally adhere to those customs that have worked their way into Vietnamese culture, such as the use of white flowers.
- white chrysanthemums image by Petr Gnuskin from Fotolia.com