We often get panicked phone calls and emails from people who are desperate to send flowers to a funeral service or to the family of the deceased. Funerals are extremely important events in Taiwanese culture and there are important customs and traditions surrounding them, so it is understandable that they cause a good deal of stress and confusion. Therefore, we thought it would be a good idea to offer an overview of funeral customs in Taiwan and offer some guidelines for sending flowers.
The first question is whether you are planning on sending sympathy flowers to the family or sending flowers to the service?
In Taiwan, it is more common to send flowers to the service with a card message addressed to the deceased. However, we often find that people living overseas are more interested in sending flowers to a friend or employee to express sympathy over the loss of a parent, grandparent, or other relative. In many cases the sender has never met the deceased and may not even know his or her name. In this case, sending a smaller arrangement to the home and addressing it to the family is an appropriate gesture. This is a fairly straight forward process and the flowers can be delivered at any time.
If you are sending the flowers to the funeral home or service, it is a little more complicated, and it may help to understand a little bit about funeral customs in Taiwan. Receiving a notification of a funeral can create feelings of shock, grief, and panic. However, as is the case in most places, there is a period before the actual funeral service during which people can visit to pay their respects, and the family will perform a series of rituals. This period can last from several days to several weeks. If you have just received notification of the funeral, there is usually plenty of time to make arrangements, and in many cases, it is not even appropriate to send flowers for some time.
During this period, some sort of alter is erected in a dedicated space, either in the home or in a funeral parlor. This space can vary from a small booth in a shared hall with no room to place more than a tiny vase to a large room with ample room to place numerous arrangements. If there is sufficient space, it is appropriate to send the flowers during this period. If space is limited, the flowers should be delivered to the actual funeral service, which will be in a different location and lasts only a few hours. If you are unsure of the situation, we are happy to call ahead and make inquiries on your behalf.
When sending flowers to the actual funeral service, there is usually plenty of space, so it is appropriate to send a larger arrangement such as an orchid. Space permitting, these are also the preferred choice for delivery to the mourning hall in advance of the service. Orchids last a long time and are easy to care for. They can be displayed in the funeral home in the days leading up to the service.
What color flowers are appropriate?
In Taiwan, white is the traditional color of mourning, although yellow, or purple are also appropriate. If the deceased is very old, some degree of pink may be appropriate as a celebration of a long life rather than mourning. If you want to know more about the meaning of color in Taiwanese and Chinese culture, you can read my post.
What information do you need to order flowers?
- First and foremost, we need to have a local contact person in Taiwan and a local contact number. While there is some other information that is important (see below), if we have a local contact, we can ask for any missing information on your behalf. Having said that, in the event that the local contact is the funeral service company rather than a family member, it is important that we have the Chinese name (in Chinese characters) of the deceased. In many cases, we will confirm the details with the local contact anyway. If there is any discrepancy, we will respect the wishes of the family.
- The name of the deceased, preferably written in Chinese characters.
- The time and place of the service, including the hall number if the flowers are to be sent to the service.
- The address where there flowers are to be sent if they are not being sent directly to the service. Please note that as I mentioned above, we will confirm the arrangements with the family or local contact. Sometimes, usually due to space considerations, they will request that we deliver directly to the service.
- Age of the deceased (optional) While not entirely necessary, if you know the approximate age of the deceased it is sometimes helpful. In Taiwan, it is sometimes customary to add a bit of pink to the funeral flowers if the person was very old. If you are not sure of the age or the person was quite young, White flowers with possible addition of yellow or purple are the safest option.
All of this information usually comes in the form of a funeral notification card. If you can’t read it, feel free to send us a picture and we can help you to figure it out.
In closing, funerals are important events and it is understandable that they cause a lot of stress. However, there is usually plenty of time to arrange all the details. If you have any questions feel free to contact us prior to placing an order and we can offer any assistance necessary.